The systematic involvement of service users (patients or clients; McGuire-Snieckus et al, 2003) and carers in an active educational role in psychiatric training is a relatively recent development. The National Service Framework for Mental Health states that ‘Service users and carers should be involved in planning, providing and evaluating training for all health care professionals' (Department of Health, 1999). The Royal College of Psychiatrists declared that from June 2005 all psychiatric trainees must have training from service users or carers. This is a sizeable shift away from traditional medical teaching, where patients have been involved only in a passive way, as the possessor of symptoms and signs, with teaching delivered by experienced clinicians and academics. The reasons behind these changes have been discussed frequently in recent medical literature (Livingston & Cooper, 2004). The primary arguments for this initiative are that service users have a unique understanding of their illness and are best placed to judge trainees on their empathy and communication skills. Increasingly, service users' views are being taken into account in training and examination of medical students and doctors (Vijayakrishnan et al, 2006).
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