Personalisation and mental health – new research report launched

A research project commissioned by Mind, the mental health charity has just reported its findings. It was carried out by a team of researchers from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) as part of a programme of work on personalisation in mental health funded by the Department of Health. Using qualitative research methods involving 49 participants it asked important questions:

  • What do service users, family members, commissioners, mental health service providers and policy experts …
    • think about personalisation as a concept and its relevance for mental health service users?
    • know about personal budgets and how aware of them are they?
    • believe are the factors affecting the uptake of personal budgets in social care?
  • What are people’s personal experiences of personal budgets?
  • Do we need more research on personal budgets in mental health?
  • What recommendations need implementing to improve current practices?

The report was particularly timely for the McPin Foundation research team because we have also recently finished work on personal budgets in mental health. We were very interested to see if the findings overlapped and how.

Hot off the press - money and artOur study worked with similar stakeholder populations – service users, families and practitioners – and used qualitative research methods including some longitudinal interviewing to assess the impact of personal budgets over time with people managing complex and enduring mental health problems. Overall, we interviewed 166 people from four local authority areas. Our findings are strikingly similar to the UCLAN research group and we concur with many of the observations they have made about both the use of, and barriers to, personalisation in mental health care. The lack of use of personal budgets for prevention work in mental health is a missed opportunity, and an area we would like to address in future work such as making personal budgets available to people on discharge from secondary to primary care services.

Our emphasis in recommendations was different. The UCLAN report focuses on changing the systems of care within which the practices of personal budgets must operate: improve staff work loads and low morale; increase the emphasis on early intervention and prevention within care pathways; improve information sharing between services; remove inequity and lack of transparency over access to personal budgets. We agree – major barriers to the implementation of personal budgets are interface challenges between health and social care systems underpinned by a different values base and operational culture, practitioner workloads and low prioritisation of social recovery, the belief that personal budgets are someone else’s responsibility and poor training or awareness in the potential of personal budgets to achieve real change in people’s lives.

Our study took a different approach to the findings. We used the experiences we heard about to develop practical guides for service users, families and practitioners to attempt to address some of the barriers to the effective use of personal budgets that both pieces of research have highlighted. The guides support individuals to better use personal budgets to support recovery and promote choice and control for people with mental health problems over their care packages.

It is reassuring that both pieces of research have similar findings and this emphasises that these are common and important issues for social care and for people with mental health problems. We hope that by taking both of these studies with their different lessons for practitioners and local authorities, real improvements can be made to the experience of people with mental health problems. We will be in touch with the UCLAN group to see if we can join forces to combine our data findings which will make for a stronger basis for change.