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Service user governors in mental health foundation trusts: accountability or business as usual?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Dee MacDonald, Marian Barnes, Mike Crawford, Edward Omeni, Aaron Wilson, Diana Rose

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalHealth expectations : an international journal of public participation in health care and health policy
Early online date25 Sep 2014
E-pub ahead of print25 Sep 2014

King's Authors


CONTEXT: National Health Foundation Trusts present opportunities for individual mental health service users to be active in the governance of trusts. This is one of a range of mechanisms for patient and public involvement and one which promotes an individual rather than collective approach to involvement.

OBJECTIVE: Within the context of a broader study of the impact of service user involvement in mental health services, the objective of this article was to explore the experience of service user governors in foundation trusts and their capacity to hold boards to account.

DESIGN, SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: The Council of Governors in three foundation trusts were observed for a year. Focus groups with service user governors were undertaken in each trust.

RESULTS: Service users had different expectations and understandings of the role and approached it in different ways. Key themes that emerged concerned: the role of a governor, conduct and content of meetings, agenda setting, relationships and representation.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS: The experiences of mental health service user governors need to be understood within the complex environment of patient and public involvement in general and of mental health service user involvement in particular. The dislocation of the service user governor role from other forms of service user activity and involvement result in confusion about how notions of holding a trust to account and representation of other service users can be addressed within a boundaried institutional environment.

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