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Carers and co-production: enabling expertise through experience?

Eleanor Bradley (Professor of Health Psychology, Institute of Health and Society, University of Worcester, Worcester, UK)

Mental Health Review Journal

ISSN: 1361-9322

Article publication date: 14 December 2015

1277

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to provide a brief overview of the literature to date which has focused on co-production within mental healthcare in the UK, including service user and carer involvement and collaboration.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper presents key outcomes from studies which have explicitly attempted to introduce co-produced care in addition to specific tools designed to encourage co-production within mental health services. The paper debates the cultural and ideological shift required for staff, service users and family members to undertake co-produced care and outlines challenges ahead with respect to service redesign and new roles in practice.

Findings

Informal carers (family and friends) are recognised as a fundamental resource for mental health service provision, as well as a rich source of expertise through experience, yet their views are rarely solicited by mental health professionals or taken into account during decision making. This issue is considered alongside new policy recommendations which advocate the development of co-produced services and care.

Research limitations/implications

Despite the launch of a number of initiatives designed to build on peer experience and support, there has been a lack of attention on the differing dynamic which remains evident between healthcare professionals and people using mental health services. Co-production sheds a light on the blurring of roles, trust and shared endeavour (Slay and Stephens, 2013) but, despite an increase in peer recovery workers across England, there has been little research or service development designed to focus explicitly on this particular dynamic.

Practical implications

Despite these challenges, coproduction in mental healthcare represents a real opportunity for the skills and experience of family members to be taken into account and could provide a mechanism to achieve the “triangle of care” with input, recognition and respect given to all (service users, carers, professionals) whose lives are touched by mental distress. However, lack of attention in relation to carer perspectives, expertise and potential involvement could undermine the potential for coproduction to act as a vehicle to encourage person-centred care which accounts for social in addition to clinical factors.

Social implications

The families of people with severe and enduring mental illness assume a major responsibility for the provision of care and support to their relatives over extended time periods (Rose et al., 2004). Involving carers in discussions about care planning could help to provide a wider picture about the impact of mental health difficulties, beyond symptom reduction. The “co-production of care” reflects a desire to work meaningfully and fully with service users and carers. However, to date, little work has been undertaken in order to coproduce services through the “triangle of care” with carers bringing their own skills, resources and expertise.

Originality/value

This paper debates the current involvement of carers across mental healthcare and debates whether co-production could be a vehicle to utilise carer expertise, enhance quality and satisfaction with mental healthcare. The critique of current work highlights the danger of increasing expectations on service providers to undertake work aligned to key initiatives (shared decision-making, person-centred care, co-production), that have common underpinning principles but, in the absence of practical guidance, could be addressed in isolation rather than as an integrated approach within a “triangle of care”.

Keywords

Citation

Bradley, E. (2015), "Carers and co-production: enabling expertise through experience?", Mental Health Review Journal, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 232-241. https://doi.org/10.1108/MHRJ-05-2014-0016

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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