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Research project: An exploration of the characteristics of patients admitted to hospital with ‘signs, symptoms and ill-defined conditions’ - Dormant - Dormant

Currently Active: 

Hospital admission rates for those over 65 have been growing more rapidly than for other age groups, and one category of emergency admissions that is causing concern is those for ‘signs, symptoms and ill-defined conditions’. Since 1992, this admission code has accounted for around half the extra emergency admissions for those aged 75 and over.


Little is known about this patient group, but it is thought that such patients might represent preventable admissions because, by definition, they are not suffering from a clearly definable acute medical problem. The DoH suggest that reduction of preventable admissions in the elderly will be a key element in resolving the bed crises currently faced by the NHS. However, reducing such admissions, and improving management of these patients, is dependent on improved understanding of their health and social care problems

In order to provide appropriate management for this group of patients there is a need for greater understanding of the problems underlying this admission code. The aim of the study is, therefore, to explore the characteristics of patients admitted with ‘symptoms, signs and ill-defined conditions’ to determine: the patient profile for admissions coded for ‘symptoms, signs and ill-defined conditions’ including demographic characteristics, concurrent medical problems and admission history; the signs and symptoms precipitating admission; and patients’, carers’ and health professionals’ perceptions of the reasons for, and appropriateness of, the admission. A systematic review of the literature relating to admissions to hospital for ‘signs, symptoms and ill-defined conditions’ will inform the identification of issues to be explored in a series of in-depth patient case studies. Data will be collected from hospital records to determine patient history, current problems and management. Each patient and/or their carer, and key professionals involved in their care, will be interviewed to gather information on their perceptions of the admission and treatment. It is intended that this exploratory study will increase the understanding of the precipitating factors leading to admission, and the extent of unmet physical, psychological and social care needs in this patient group.
Project team

Team Members 

Bronagh Walsh

Project funder

 University of Southampton Annual Grants Scheme

Related research groups

Health Work and Systems

Key Publications

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