BACKGROUND The community-oriented mental illness services providing care to defined populations in south Verona, Italy (17,628 adults) and south Manchester, England (12,021 adults) have been compared to explore relationships between service organisation and patterns of service use.
METHOD The composition and function of the two services and the sociodemographic characteristics of the two centres are described and related to epidemiological data on service use in the community, out-patient clinic, day hospital and in-patient care.
RESULTS Treated incidence of all psychiatric diagnoses and of schizophrenia were significantly higher in south Manchester than south Verona, indicating that the referral filter between primary and secondary care is more permeable in Manchester. Patients known to the service were more likely to be admitted and to have shorter in-patient stays in south Verona, indicating that the filter between in-patient care and the community is more permeable in Verona than Manchester.
CONCLUSIONS The organisation of services in Verona results in a smaller load on the mental health service; the shorter hospital stays can be related to better integration between hospital and community resources. The organisation of services in Manchester provides care for a greater proportion of the population, but would be likely to require increased resources for the mental health services over time.