Objective: The objectives of this study were to: (i) obtain baseline data on the extent of carer involvement across a representative sample of hospital and community patients within an integrated area health service; and (ii) examine perspectives on discharge planning and community care among patients and their carers to identify information and resources they consider important.
Method: Over a 4-month period, inpatients before discharge and patients accessing community mental health services participated in face-to-face interviews. Information was collected about carer involvement and, with the patient's consent, the identified carer was sent a similar survey to determine demographics and information needs. This resulted in a representative sample of patients and carers accessing inpatient and community settings acrossa metropolitan mental health service. Support needs and carerburden were also assessed but are not reported here.
Results: A total of 407 interviews were completed, 207 in inpatient settings and 200 in the community. An inpatient response rate of 70% and a community response rate of 75% was achieved. Across both settings, 67% of patients identified a carer and a carer response rate of 28% was then obtained. We found carers and patients have different priorities regarding the information they want and information is often not provided to carers. Furthermore, patients were more confident in their ability to manage their mental health in the community than carers.
Conclusions: This study yielded important baseline data about the number of patients who have a carer. We were also able to determine that routine clinical information provided to patients and carers is inadequate from their perspective. It is anticipated that this initiative will assist ongoing service planning and improve partnerships with patients and their carers.