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20 Oct 2023

Research highlights the effectiveness of personalised care plans for those in mental health crisis

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Research highlights a need for more personalised care plans for people in mental health crisis.

New research exploring people’s experiences of the care plans they receive in Emergency Departments following a mental health crisis, has recommended that clinicians should take a more holistic and person-centred approach to safety planning.

The study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found that personalised safety plans with tailored advice were the most useful for patients, especially plans that considered what had or hadn’t worked for that person, in the past.

It also found that patients who receive a generic care plan or who don’t receive a care plan are unlikely to be getting the support they need, which may increase their risk of repeat self-harm and re-attendance at A&E.

The work was led by Dr Sally O’Keeffe, a Mental Health Research Fellow supported by the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) North East and North Cumbria.

Dr O’Keeffe said: “Patients told us that care plans were useful when they were personalised and provided realistic advice. However, many people felt their care plan was ill-fitted to their needs and was not supportive in keeping them safe. These findings are important as they point clearly towards a need for more personalised and tailored care plans for patients in mental health crisis, including those at risk of self-harm or suicide.”

‘Mollie’ was one of the patients interviewed as part of the study. She described a safety plan that included professional sources of support, warning signs to help her notice future crises, distractions she could use, and advice on what to do when in danger. Mollie described this safety plan positively in contrast to previous care plans, as it was truly personalised and based on her experiences.

Dr O’Keeffe added: “This research tells us that a ‘one size fits all’ approach to safety and care planning for people in mental health crisis, often doesn’t work. Clinicians should strive to develop holistic care plans, tailored of the patients’ experiences of what has, and has not, been helpful in the past, including personalised and creative recommendations beyond NHS services and professional support.”

Read the full research paper