Background: Patients with severe and enduring mental health problems are increasingly being cared for in the community. Whilst community services continue to develop it is recognized that family members and friends play an important role in the care process.
Aims: (i) to assess the level of service use and associated costs of carers, (ii) to compare service use to that pertaining in the general population, and (iii) to identify carer characteristics that are predictive of cost variations.
Method: Carers were asked for details of services that they had used over the previous 12 months. Service use from this sample was compared with that in the general population. Costs were calculated and the impact that various carer characteristics had on the variation in costs was analysed.
Results: Data were available on 77 carers. Most carers used community health services and a large proportion also had hospital contacts. Service use was similar to that observed in the general population. The mean total service cost was £354 over the 12-month period. Four factors were each able to explain at least 5% of variation in costs.
Conclusions: Carers use a wide range of services. However, the level of use is similar to that observed in the general population, which may suggest that morbidity in carers is not reflected in increased service use for carers of those with serious mental health problems.