A report, recently launched by the South West Yorkshire Mental Health NHS Trust, has shown that involving people who use mental health services in the care they receive, really can make a difference.
‘Making a Difference – the Impact of Service User and Carer Involvement in Research’, examined whether involving people who used mental health services, in looking at how well services ran and whether they met their needs, could be of benefit to the South West Yorkshire Mental Health NHS Trust.
The report found that involving service users and carers as partners in projects brought benefits to the Trust and to the service users and carers themselves. Among the many benefits were: Increased knowledge of how services worked and how staff were trying to improve services; Gaining new knowledge and skills; Raised awareness of the issues facing those who use services; Increased self esteem and confidence of those service users who got involved.
The report was the result of an evaluation of service user and carer involvement undertaken by a user led research group, Direct Impact, and research and development staff.
The South West Yorkshire Mental Health NHS Trust has a philosophy of consulting and involving service users and carers and holds regular listening events to get their views on service delivery. One of the areas of involvement is the evaluation and research of its services. Some of the ways service users and carers have got involved are: Direct Impact – A service user and carer research group; Evaluating a welfare rights project; Undertaking interviews to evaluate a service; Advising staff; Sitting on Trust committees.
Members of the Direct Impact group have spoken about why they got involved. One member commented, ‘I got involved with Direct Impact because I wanted to have more training in research so that local services can be improved, based on evidence from people who use services’. Another group member said, ‘Service user and carer involvement in research is important because it values us, giving us a role alongside professionals. It may also result in more valid research’.
Virginia Minogue, Research and Development Manager, added, ‘Involving service users and carers in our research projects and programmes of research has been tremendously important. They have helped us to set our priorities and focus on the things that are important to the people who use our services. They bring insight, knowledge and experience, and their input is invaluable’.