Continuity of care for carers of people with severe mental illness: results of a longitudinal study.
Burns T., Catty J., Harvey K., White S., Jones IR., McLaren S., Wykes T., ECHO Group None.
INTRODUCTION: Continuity of care has been demonstrated to be important for service users and carer groups have voiced major concerns over disruptions of care. We aimed to assess the experienced continuity of care in carers of patients with both psychotic and non-psychotic disorders and explore its association with carer characteristics and psychological well-being. METHODS: Friends and relatives caring for two groups of service users in the care of community mental health teams (CMHTs), 69 with psychotic and 38 with non-psychotic disorders, were assessed annually at three and two time points, respectively. CONTINUES, a measure specifically designed to assess continuity of care for carers themselves, was utilized along with assessments of psychological well-being and caregiving. RESULTS: One hundred and seven carers participated. They reported moderately low continuity of care. Only 22 had had a carer's assessment and just under a third recorded psychological distress on the GHQ. For those caring for people with psychotic disorders, reported continuity was higher if the carer was male, employed, lived with the user and had had a carer's assessment; for those caring for people with non-psychotic disorders, it was higher if the carer was from the service user's immediate family, lived with them and had had a carer's assessment. CONCLUSION: The vast majority of the carers had not had a carer's assessment provided by the CMHT despite this being a clear national priority and being an intervention with obvious potential to increase carers' reported low levels of continuity of care. Improving continuity of contact with carers may have an important part to play in the overall improvement of care in this patient group and deserves greater attention.