Prof Tony Morrison, the new joint GM CLRN Mental Health Theme lead with responsibility for psychological research, explains how involving service users is vital for both researchers and patients.
“Mental health research has a number of specific issues which need to be considered in order to ensure benefit for patients, the NHS and researchers.
“As clinical researchers, it’s vital that we strike a balance between delivering care for people within very busy services and embedding and integrating research into these services. We also need to consider what research is of most benefit for service users as well as what is of interest to researchers.
“One aspect of mental health care that is perhaps different to other areas of health care is that treatment for patients with mental health problems is, at times, against the will of the patient. For instance, if you present at A&E with a broken limb then both you and your physician have a shared goal to make you better. But if you have psychological symptoms such as hearing voices or believing things that other people don’t believe, but you’re perfectly happy in hearing or believing them, it might not be a problem for you but it might be for those around you. So as researchers we need to consider the needs of everyone.
“Though service user involvement is vital in all health research, I believe this is particularly so in mental health, and especially in the more severe end of psychosis that I see. It’s vital from a research point of view that we involve patients in the research process, to ensure it makes an improvement to people’s care.
“Within my own area of research I’ve been very keen on service user involvement in research wherever possible. So within our own services’ research team we have several employees who have previously been or are currently service users who work in a variety of ways within our team – for instance one of these people is now studying for a PhD which I now supervise. This helps to ensure the research we are doing is relevant to patients.”
Prof Morrison is a professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Manchester and works clinically for the Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.