Consumer participation in mental health services: who wants it and why?
Margaret Tobin, Luxin Chen and Colleen Leathley
Australian Health Review
25(3) 91 - 100
AbstractContemporary health policy dictates that health services have a demonstrable consumer focus and actively progress the issue of consumer participation in services. Given that costs of such initiatives are not insignificant, there is a responsibility to ensure that the resources are being directed to appropriate means, and are achieving worthwhile results. In examining the impact and effectiveness of consumer participation initiatives in their own Service, the authors undertook a qualitative study exploring the extent and quality of consumer participation following a three-year period of support and funding. Using trained consumers as interviewers, current consumers were asked about their perceptions and personal experience of "participation". Findings identified low familiarity and involvement with the concept of consumer participation overall. Barriers to involvement included lack of motivation or invitation, stigma, and a lack of information. A need to integrate consumer participation activities into the wider system was also noted. The authors conclude that simply devoting energy and resources to consumer initiatives, and thereby achieving a politically correct approach, may not be a worthwhile exercise. Such initiatives need to be based on evidence, available resources and identifiable and achievable outcomes, with a balance struck between endorsing the value of consumer participation and establishing realistic goals for what can be offered and managed.
© AHHA 2002