To explore the role of the consultant psychiatrist using an observational approach. Five consultant psychiatrists were shadowed by a trained observer. Observations were subjected to a qualitative analysis based on a grounded theory approach.
Six themes emerged as being significant; these were administration and secretarial support; training aspects of the role; clinical activity; the referral process; supervision, support and continuing professional development; and organisational systems.
The results indicated significant difficulties in the role of the consultant psychiatrist and the need for change. Any change in this role would have an effect on the roles of other professionals and on the whole system in which they work.
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