Meta-narrative review

PLoSOneAs promised, here’s a post about a new paper from COCAPP, published last month in gold open access form in the journal PLOS ONE. Led by Aled Jones, this reports on our meta-narrative review of research into care planning and coordination in community mental health care. Meta-narrative reviews are a relatively new approach to literature reviewing, and aim to track the (potentially diverse) traditions of research found in a given field. Guidance on their production can be found here.

For those interested, here’s this new article’s abstract:

Context

In response to political and social factors over the last sixty years mental health systems internationally have endeavoured to transfer the delivery of care from hospitals into community settings. As a result, there has been increased emphasis on the need for better quality care planning and care coordination between hospital services, community services and patients and their informal carers. The aim of this systematic review of international research is to explore which interventions have proved more or less effective in promoting personalized, recovery oriented care planning and coordination for community mental health service users.

Methods

A systematic meta-narrative review of research from 1990 to the present was undertaken. From an initial return of 3940 papers a total of 50 research articles fulfilled the inclusion criteria, including research from the UK, Australia and the USA.

Findings

Three research traditions are identified consisting of (a) research that evaluates the effects of government policies on the organization, management and delivery of services; (b) evaluations of attempts to improve organizational and service delivery efficiency; (c) service-users and carers experiences of community mental health care coordination and planning and their involvement in research. The review found no seminal papers in terms of high citation rates, or papers that were consistently cited over time. The traditions of research in this topic area have formed reactively in response to frequent and often unpredictable policy changes, rather than proactively as a result of intrinsic academic or intellectual activity. This may explain the absence of seminal literature within the subject field. As a result, the research tradition within this specific area of mental health service delivery has a relatively short history, with no one dominant researcher or researchers, tradition or seminal studies amongst or across the three traditions identified.

Conclusions

The research findings reviewed suggests a gap has existed internationally over several decades between policy aspirations and service level interventions aimed at improving personalised care planning and coordination and the realities of everyday practices and experiences of service users and carers. Substantial barriers to involvement are created through poor information exchange and insufficient opportunities for care negotiation.

It’s taken far longer than it should have done to get this paper into print. PLOS ONE’s peer review and editorial processes moved at glacial pace, and we’ve agreed as a team not to submit to this journal again. As it happens, this week another COCAPP paper completed its journey through peer review, and has been accepted for publication in the  International Journal of Integrated Care. This has been a much better managed publishing experience, and once this article – which reports on what care coordinators do when they coordinate care – appears online I’ll post something here about it.

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