Purpose: Ethnic inequalities in experiences of mental health care persist in the UK, although most evidence derives from in-patient settings. We aimed to explore service users' and carers' accounts of recent episodes of severe mental illness and of the care received in a multi-cultural inner city. We sought to examine factors impacting on these experiences, including whether and how users and carers felt that their experiences were mediated by ethnicity.
Methods: Forty service users and thirteen carers were recruited following an acute psychotic episode using typical case sampling. In-depth interviews explored illness and treatment experiences. Ethnicity was allowed to emerge in participants' narratives and was prompted if necessary.
Results: Ethnicity was not perceived to impact significantly on therapeutic relationships, and nor were there ethnic differences in care pathways, or in the roles of families and friends. Ethnic diversity was commonplace among both service users and mental health professionals. This was tolerated in community settings if efforts were made to ensure high-quality care. Home Treatment was rated highly, irrespective of service users' ethnicity. In-patient care was equally unpopular and was the one setting where ethnicity appeared to mediate unsatisfactory care experiences. These findings highlight the risks of generalising from reports of (dis)satisfaction with care based predominantly on in-patient experiences.
Conclusions: Home treatment was popular but hard to deliver in deprived surroundings and placed a strain on carers. Interventions to enhance community treatments in deprived areas are needed, along with remedial interventions to improve therapeutic relationships in hospital settings.