Category: Mental health

CAMH crisis animations

Over the last few years I’ve been a part of a team led by my Cardiff colleague, Dr Nicola Evans, synthesising the evidence in the area of mental health crisis responses for children and young people. Here is a link to the project, which has been funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Health and Social Care Delivery (HSDR) Research Programme.

Now, with the project having concluded, an animation with English and Welsh language versions has been produced. Here they are:

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Conferences

This month brought, for me, the welcome return of face-to-face conferences. First, I was pleased to have received an invitation earlier in the year to deliver a keynote lecture at the RCN International Nursing Research Conference 2022, which took place at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama on September 5th and 6th. Rather than speak about any one, particular, study I used this as an opportunity to travel over a larger programme of research in the mental health field, pulling out underpinning ideas and key messages along the way.

Boiled down, my talk revolved around four ideas: health care can be thought of as a complex system; complex health systems can be understood through the study of cases, existing at different ‘levels’ of organisation (macro, meso and micro); to appreciate cases of health care system complexity it makes sense to use a plurality of analytic and methodological approaches; and research of this type demands a collaborative, stakeholder-informed, approach. These will be familiar themes to readers of this blog site. My talk at the RCN event, however, represented the most sustained effort I’ve made to date to articulate the principles and practices underpinning the research programme I have been involved in, to synthesise the main lessons learned, and to pull out some overarching observations. At some point it would make sense to write all of this up in an article.

Hot on the heels of the RCN International Nursing Research Conference came the 28th International Mental Health Nursing Research Conference, which took place at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, on September 8th and 9th. St Catherine’s was the home for the Network for Psychiatric Nursing Research Conference, as this event was originally known, for many years: returning there earlier this month seemed fitting after the two online editions of the event which happened in 2020 and 2021. I was pleased to be part of a symposium presenting findings from three NIHR-funded studies into mental health crisis services. Led By Dr Nichola Clibbens, this included a talk by Nicola and Michael Ashman drawing from their (and their colleagues’) realist synthesis of how, for whom and in what circumstances different community mental health crisis services work. Also featuring was a presentation from Professor Steve Gillard and Dr Katie Anderson on mental health decision units in acute care pathways. Third in the linked series of presentations was my talk summarising findings from an evidence synthesis, led by Dr Nicola Evans, into crisis responses for children and young people aged 5 to 25.

More generally, I very much appreciated the opportunity at both these events to renew my connections with friends and colleagues, and to meet and hear new people with interesting things to say. In the case of MHNR2022, particular thanks are due to the organising committee, which brought this conference together under the umbrella of Mental Health Nurse Academics UK without a dedicated events team in support.

New theses

Here is news of two completed doctoral theses which I have helped support as a supervisor, both being within the mental health field. First is Fortune Mhlanga’s Implementing recovery-oriented practice in mental health services: a qualitative case study, which is all about how recovery ideas are used in everyday practice. The summary for Fortune’s study is this:

Although the recovery philosophy has been adopted in mental health services in various Western countries including England, its implementation in practice has been described as “slow and patchy”. Furthermore, there are suggestions in the literature that there is a lack of clarity around the implementation of recovery-oriented practice (ROP) and a dearth of research exploring the phenomenon. This study aimed to discover how recovery-oriented practice is implemented in an NHS Trust providing care for people experiencing mental health problems, in order to add to what is already known about the implementation of ROP to inform future practice.

A qualitative case study approach was employed to investigate the implementation of ROP from strategic to grassroots level in two practice settings (Community Mental Health Team and Rehabilitation ward) within one NHS Trust providing mental health services in the South of England. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 16 participants (senior managers, practitioners, service users) investigating their perceptions and experiences of ROP. Data were analysed using thematic analysis and further interpreted by situating it in the literature.

Main findings

• Whilst there was a shared common understanding of the meaning of recovery and ROP in the organisation, there was a fundamental difference between practitioners and service users’ conceptualisations with service users leaning more towards clinical recovery.

• At strategic level, strategies to facilitate implementation of ROP focused on changing the culture within the organisation through Implementing Recovery through Organisational Change (ImROC) recommended interventions such as: Recovery College, peer workers and use of the Recovery Star. At grassroots level, implementation was via the development of therapeutic relationships between service users and practitioners.

• Salient barriers to the implementation of ROP included: time taken completing paperwork resulting from performance measures used by commissioners in the community team, the shortage of resources and the tension between risk management and ROP in both settings.

Study contribution

This study addresses the gap in research on the implementation of ROP through an exploration of how ROP was being implemented in two practice settings in an NHS organisation providing mental health care. Methodologically, the qualitative case study approach adopted in the study allowed triangulation of data from participants ranging from grassroots level to strategic level. Furthermore, the approach taken with the sample consisting of service users, senior managers and practitioners from inpatient and community practice settings within the same organisation is not comparable with any other studies on ROP that have been conducted in England. This study therefore informs implementation efforts of similar organisations and makes recommendations for practice, commissioners and research.

Second up is Bethan Mair Edwards’ A window of opportunity: Describing and developing an evidence, theory, and practice-informed occupational therapy intervention for people living with early-stage dementia, which addresses the development of OT practice in the support of people with memory difficulties. The summary from Bethan’s thesis is this:

Aim

There is a scarcity of evidence generated in a UK context to inform the practice of occupational therapists working with people living with early-stage dementia. This Thesis’ overarching aim was to describe and develop an evidence, theory, and practice-informed occupational therapy intervention for people living with early-stage dementia.

Methods

In accordance with the MRC Framework for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions, an Intervention Mapping approach was utilised to guide the development process. Thesis Objectives were developed based on Intervention Mapping Steps 1 – 3, and to meet these objectives, this Thesis consists of three studies. Study 1 (a two-stage mixed methods evidence synthesis) and Study 2 (semi-structured interviews with people affected by dementia and occupational therapy practitioners) sought to understand the intervention population and context, as well as identify existing research and practice-based interventions. Study 3 involved describing and developing an intervention programme theory and programme design.

Findings

Studies 1 and 2:

Multiple personal and environmental (social, physical, and occupational) determinants associated with the occupational performance problems that people living with earlystage dementia may experience were identified. Existing research and practice-based interventions were heterogenous in nature and no programme theories were reported; however, strategies that problem-solve occupational performance problems were identified as a primary intervention component. In practice contextual barriers were associated with resources, other professionals’ awareness and understanding of occupational therapy, and a lack of control and influence over service development and policy.

Study 3:

A logic model of the problem and population, matrices of change, and a simple intervention logic model were developed to articulate a proposed programme theory. A broad overview of the proposed interventions’ design, including components and context, were specified and key uncertainties outlined.

Conclusion

This research has developed a robust foundation for further development work at Intervention Mapping Steps 4 – 6, including developing theoretically informed implementation strategies and producing materials in preparation for a feasibility evaluation.

Two super pieces of work, with real relevance for interprofessional mental health services and practice: congratulations to both.

Accessible summary

In what will, I imagine, be a final post about the MENLOC evidence synthesis here is our accessible summary. This has been produced with a wide readership in mind, and for completeness includes links to the full Health and Social Care Delivery Research monograph reporting the project in full, and to our two derived papers. The first, in Palliative Medicine, reports on our research, policy and guidance synthesis and the second, in BMJ Open, reports on findings from our synthesis of case studies.

For a copy, click below:

MENLOC monograph

With funding from the National Institute for Health Research comes the opportunity (and indeed, the requirement) to produce a detailed monograph reporting on all aspects of the project which has been supported. The Health and Social Care Delivery Research monograph arising from the MENLOC evidence synthesis, about which I have added various posts on this site, has now appeared. As with all NIHR project reports, this is free to download.

Here is the plain English summary:

In this study we brought together evidence from research, policies, guidance and case studies in the area of end-of-life care for people with severe mental illness. End-of-life care refers to the help given to people with life-threatening conditions in their expected last 12 months of life. Severe mental illness refers to a range of issues for which care is usually provided by specialist mental health services.

An advisory group, which included people who had experience of mental health and end-of-life care, helped us throughout our project. We searched research databases, journals and online sources. We assessed research articles for their quality and summarised their content. In one review we combined content from research with content from policy and guidance. In another review we combined the content of the case studies. We wrote synthesis statements summarising the research evidence, and assessed how much confidence decision-makers should have in these statements.

We included 104 documents overall. We synthesised research, policy and guidance under themes reflecting their content: the structure of mental health and end-of-life care services; professional practice; providing and receiving care; and living with severe mental illness. We synthesised case studies under themes relating to delays in diagnosis, making decisions, treatment futility, supporting people and the experience of care.

Our project has implications for care. The evidence suggests that partnerships should be built between mental health and end-of-life care staff, and that people should be supported to die where they choose. Care staff need education, support and supervision. A team approach is needed, including support for advocacy. Physical health care for people with severe mental illness needs to be improved so that life-threatening conditions can be recognised sooner.

Future research should involve people with severe mental illness at the end of life and their carers. Research is also needed to evaluate new ways of providing and organising care.

Second MENLOC paper

Here is our second published paper from the MENLOC project, which has synthesised what is known about end of life care for people with severe mental health problems. This article, led by Michael Coffey, reports on our theming of the evidence derived from previously-published case studies. The paper is in BMJ Open, is open access, and has this as its abstract:

Objectives: People with severe mental illness (SMI) have significant comorbidities and reduced life expectancy. The objective of the review reported in this paper was to synthesise material from case studies relating to the organisation, provision and receipt of care for people with SMI who have an end-of-life (EoL) diagnosis.
Design: Systematic review and thematic synthesis.
Data sources: MEDLINE, PsycINFO, EMBASE, HMIC, AMED, CINAHL, CENTRAL, ASSIA, DARE and Web of Science from inception to December 2019. Supplementary searching for additional material including grey literature along with 62 organisational websites.
Results: Of the 11 904 citations retrieved, 42 papers reporting 51 case studies were identified and are reported here. Twenty-five of the forty-two case study papers met seven, or more quality criteria, with eight meeting half or less. Attributes of case study subjects included that just over half were men, had a mean age of 55 years, psychotic illnesses dominated and the EoL condition was in most cases a cancer. Analysis generated themes as follows: diagnostic delay and overshadowing, decision capacity and dilemmas, medical futility, individuals and their networks, care provision.
Conclusions: In the absence of high-quality intervention studies, this evidence synthesis indicates that cross-disciplinary care is supported within the context of established therapeutic relationships. Attention to potential delay and diagnostic overshadowing is required in care provision. The values and preferences of individuals with severe mental illness experiencing an end-of-life condition should be recognised.

Synthesising data

A not-uncommon research strategy in health and social care research is to generate different types of data and, through some process of transformation, bring these together into a coherent whole. The idea here is that combining data produces a more complete, detailed, analysis than can be created using one type of data alone. For example, in my doctorate, which focused on the system of mental health care and the division of labour, I conducted lots of qualitative interviews but also used written records as a source of data and observed people going about their day-to-day work. What people say, what people do, and what people write about they’ve done are not the same thing: knitting together a rich, or ‘thick’, description of a social setting is helped when different classes of data are available to be drawn upon. In more recent studies of care planning and coordination (see here and here) the research teams I’ve been a part of have variously combined interviews, documentary review, questionnaires and observations.

In a slow-burn kind of way, over a period of many months I’ve been working with members of the 3MDR project team to bring together data of very different types. The 3MDR study, led by Jon Bisson, is something I’ve written about before and involved examining the efficacy of a novel intervention for people with post-traumatic stress disorder. Across the project overall three, distinct, classes of data were generated: outcomes, derived from clinician-assessed and self-reported standardised measures; psychophysiological, including breathing and heart rate, walking pace, words and phrases used by participants during therapy, plus subjective unit of distress scores; and qualitative, namely post-therapy interviews where people talked about their views and experiences. Working particularly closely, in the first instance, with Robert van Deursen and Kali Barawi our task has been a mixed-methods data synthesis to explore the interrelationships between people, interventions and context and to investigate how factors within these three domains interact in specific outcome typologies.

This has been an interesting and challenging project, and we’re not yet done. Whilst many of the ideas underpinning this analysis are familiar ones (complexity, interconnections, the search for patterns) the combined dataset we’re mixing together is an unusual one. This work is also proving to be a reminder of how much can be found out through the detailed study of relatively small numbers of participants. Our data relate to ten people only, but our total dataset is both comprehensive and varied. At some point (but not quite yet) we’ll have a paper ready for journal submission, and I’ll be able to share more on this site.

Crisis responses

In recent months I’ve been part of a team, led by Nicola Evans, bringing together the evidence in the area of responses for children and young people in mental health crisis. Our working definition of a ‘crisis response’ has been the provision of a service in response to extreme psychosocial distress, which for children and young people may be provided in any location such as an emergency department, primary care, a specialist or non-specialist community service, a school, a college, a university, a youth group, or via a crisis support line. Our objectives have been:

  • To critically appraise, synthesise and present the best available evidence on the organisation of crisis services for children and young people aged 5 to 25 years, across education, health, social care and the third sector.
  • To determine the effectiveness of current models of mental health crisis support for children and young people.
  • To explore the experiences and perceptions of young people, families and staff with regards to mental health crisis support for children and young people aged 5 to 25 years.
  • To determine the goals of crisis intervention

As a project team we’ve been informed by a stakeholder advisory group, and have cast a wide net by searching not only for research but also other relevant evidence including guidance, case studies and more. Methodologically, therefore, this review bears comparison with others I’ve previously written about on this site including the RiSC study and MENLOC. More on this crisis care evidence synthesis to follow in due course.

Getting started in research

Currently I’m serving a term as Director of Postgraduate Research in the School of Healthcare Sciences, which means I have responsibilities for our PhD and our Doctorate in Advanced Healthcare Practice (DAHP) programmes. For aspirant researchers a doctoral degree is a necessary qualification, with the PhD culminating in the production of a thesis of some 80,000 words whilst the DAHP in Cardiff combines taught modules and a shorter thesis of no more than 50,000 words. In the School we have numbers of students in the thesis stage of their DAHP degrees, but this particular programme no longer recruits new entrants. The PhD, though, continues to attract people from the UK and around the world and information on it can be found here.

October is the first opportunity in each academic year for postgraduate student enrolment, and compared to the numbers of people commencing their undergraduate and taught postgraduate studies our newly starting students are small in number. This is to be expected, but this also takes me to the general observation that the health professions need many more people to get involved in research and knowledge creation.

Information on developing research careers in the mental health field can be found at the NIHR Incubator for Mental Health Research website. There is lots of value here, including advice on first steps, on sources of funding, and on finding support and mentorship. There are case studies, too, of people from a range of backgrounds and at different stages of their research careers (including people studying for doctorates), and a whole section aimed at nurses.

Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing has launched the Annie Altschul Collection, an online repository of doctoral degrees completed by mental health nurses. The repository is searchable, and is also themed, with hyperlinks to the full text of each included thesis where these are available.

End of life care for people with severe mental illness

Here is a first publication from the MENLOC study, reporting on a synthesis of research, policy and guidance in the area of end of life care for people with severe mental illness. This is in the journal Palliative Medicine, and the abstract is here:

Background: Parity of esteem means that end-of-life care for people with severe mental illness should be of equal quality to that experienced by all.
Aim: To synthesise international, English language, research and UK policy and guidance relating to the organisation, provision, and receipt of end-of-life care for people with severe mental illness.
Design: A mixed methods systematic review was conducted following the Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Coordinating Centre approach and informed by a stakeholder group. We employed thematic synthesis to bring together data from both qualitative and quantitative studies, and from non-research material. We assessed the strength of synthesised findings using the Confidence in the Evidence from Reviews of Qualitative Research (CERQual) and Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approaches.
Data sources: Ten electronic databases were searched from inception to December 2019, along with 62 organisational websites. Quality appraisal was conducted using Critical Appraisal Skills Programme checklists or other study design-specific alternatives as necessary.
Results: Of the 11,904 citations retrieved, 34 research publications were included plus 28 non-research items. The majority of research was of high or acceptable quality. An overarching synthesis including 52 summary statements, with assessments of confidence in the underpinning evidence, was produced using four themes: Structure of the system; Professional issues; Contexts of care; and Living with severe mental illness.
Conclusions: Implications for services and practice reflect evidence in which there is a high degree of confidence. Partnership should be developed across the mental health and end-of-life systems, and ways found to support people to die where they choose. Staff caring for people with severe mental illness at the end-of-life need education, support and supervision. End-of-life care for people with severe mental illness requires a team approach, including advocacy. Proactive physical health care for people with severe mental illness is needed to tackle problems of delayed diagnosis.

We have a second paper from this study currently under review in another journal, and the complete, unabridged, report is soon to be appearing in the NIHR’s Health Services and Delivry Research journal.