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Service user and carer involvement in mental health care safety : raising concerns and improving the safety of services

BACKGROUND: Previous research into improving patient safety has emphasised the importance of responding to and learning from concerns raised by service users and carers. Expertise gained by the experiences of service users and their carers has also been seen as a potential resource to improve patient safety. We know little about the ease of raising concerns within mental health services, and the potential benefits of involving service users and carers in safety interventions. This study aimed to explore service user and carer perceptions of raising safety concerns, and service user, carer and health professional views on the potential for service user and carer involvement in safety interventions. METHODS: UK service users, carers and health professionals (n=185) were recruited via social media to a cross-sectional survey focussed on raising concerns about safety issues and views on potential service user and carer participation in safety interventions. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics, and free text responses were coded into categories. RESULTS: The sample of 185 participants included 90 health professionals, 77 service users and 18 carers. Seventy seven percent of service users and carers reported finding it very difficult or difficult to raise concerns. Their most frequently cited barriers to raising concerns were: services did not listen; concerns about repercussions; and the process of raising concerns, especially while experiencing mental ill health. There was universal support from health professionals for service user and carer involvement in safety interventions and over half the service users and carers supported involvement, primarily due to their expertise from experience. CONCLUSIONS: Mental health service users and carers experience difficulties in raising safety concerns meaning that potentially useful information is being missed. All the health professionals and the majority of service users and carers saw potential for service users and carer involvement in interventions to improve safety, to ensure their experiences are taken into consideration. The results provide guidance for future research about the most effective ways of ensuring that concerns about safety can be both raised and responded to, and how service user and carer involvement in improving safety in mental health care can be further developed. 

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Journal article
BioMed Central Ltd
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Journal Titles
BMC Health Services Research
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