For a period of one week, all visitors to Shropshire patients in geriatric units were interrogated about the method, duration, and starting point of their journey to hospital. These data, together with those of the patients, were used to examine the extent to which the duration of hospital stay, and the `crow-fly' distances of patients' and visitors' homes from the hospitals, affected visiting rates. The pronounced effect of the first factor underlines the need to consider separately those patients requiring assessment and rehabilitation from those requiring mainly custodial care when the siting of hospitals for geriatric patients is being planned. The visiting pattern for the former type of patient was not materially affected by the distance of the patient's home from hospital (within a range of 0-32 kilometres), whereas visiting rates for long-stay patients decreased rapidly as distance increased beyond 16 kilometres (10 miles).
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