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A systematic review and qualitative meta-synthesis of patients’ experiences of assessment and detention under mental health legislation

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere37
JournalBritish Journal of Psychiatry Open
Issue number3
Early online date24 Apr 2019
Accepted/In press25 Feb 2019
E-pub ahead of print24 Apr 2019
Published24 Apr 2019


King's Authors


Understanding patient experiences of detention under mental health legislation is crucial to efforts to reform policy and practice.

This review aimed to synthesise qualitative evidence on patients’ experiences of
assessment and detention under mental health legislation.

Five bibliographic databases were searched, supplemented by reference list screening and citation tracking. Studies were included if they reported on patient experiences of assessment or detention under mental health legislation; reported on patients aged 18 years or older; collected data using qualitative methods; and were reported in peer-reviewed journals. Findings were analysed and synthesised using thematic synthesis.

The review included 56 papers. Themes were generally consistent across studies and related to information and involvement in care, the environment, and relationships with staff, as well as the impact of detention on feelings of self-worth and emotional state. The emotional impact of detention and views of its appropriateness varied, but a frequent theme was fear and distress during detention, including in relation to the use of force and restraint. Where staff were perceived as striving to form caring and collaborative relationships with patients despite the coercive nature of treatment, and when clear information was delivered, negative impacts of involuntary care seemed to be reduced.

Findings suggest that involuntary inpatient care is often frightening and distressing, but certain factors were identified which can help reduce negative experiences. Co-production models may be fruitful in developing new ways of working on inpatient wards that provide more voice to patients and staff, and physical and social environments that are more conducive to recovery.

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