Investigating the contribution of the voluntary sector to mental health crisis care

The Health Services Management Centre (HSMC), in partnership with the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) at the University of Birmingham, Suresearch and the Open University Business School is undertaking this 2 year research project investigating the role of the voluntary sector in mental health crisis care in England. It is funded by an award from the National Institute for Health Research Health Services and Delivery Research (HS&DR) Programme.

It is led by Dr Karen Newbigging, who is a Senior Lecturer in Healthcare Policy and Management at University of Birmingham and a Suresearch member.

Suresearch members are working on the project in various capacities:

  • on the Research Team
  • the Study Steering Group
  • the projects’s Service User Reference Group
  • as a co-researcher on the project
  • facilitating training for co-researchers

The project overview states that

“Research and national reports have shown that access to the right kind of support at the right time for people in a mental health crisis can be a problem. Some people, also, avoid seeking help because of fears related to hospital admission or poor treatment, which can result in involuntary detention under the Mental Health Act. As a result, the voluntary sector, also referred to as the third sector, provides support for people in a mental health crisis. This ranges from helplines, peer support, befriending or crisis houses, which provide an alternative to inpatient admission and community support.

Voluntary sector support is highly valued because it is informal, focuses on social context and builds relationships with the person in crisis. How widely available these different types of crisis support are, what they provide and how they fit with the crisis services offered by the NHS or Local Authority is not well understood.”

The project is mapping the provision of crisis support nationally, and then focusing on selected areas for more detailed case studies, involving interviews and focus groups with stakeholders, service users and carers. Co-researchers with lived experience of mental health crisis are working alongside academic researchers on the project.

The aims of the project are stated as to

  • Investigate the range of crisis support offered by VSOs in England.
  • Explore stakeholder views of the relative strengths and weaknesses of different types of voluntary sector services.
  • Recommend what needs to happen for NHS and Local Authority crisis services to work with voluntary sector services better.

You can read an overview of the research here.

The new project website, includes interviews with some of the research team.

There is also a twitter feed at #uob_mhcrisis

We hope to include news about the research  on our own website, together with reports from some of the Suresearch members involved.


Research protocol published – November 2017

An  article on this project has been published in the BMJ Open Journal in November 2017.  ‘Contribution of the voluntary sector to mental health crisis care in England: protocol for a multimethod study’, presents the research ‘Protocol’ which sets out the aims and objectives and explains how the research will be conducted. The article’s authors include research team and Suresearch members, Karen Newbigging and Alex Davis.