Advocacy is assuming an increasingly important role in the delivery of mental health services, but many psychiatrists feel threatened by it. This study was performed to ascertain how much doctors and nurses know about advocacy and their attitudes towards it. We interviewed five senior house officers, five staff nurses and four community psychiatric nurses (CPNs) to examine their understanding, experience and opinions about advocacy. A full-time advocate was also interviewed to establish his views about how well staff understood his role.
In general there was poor understanding of the background and training of advocates, and their Code of Practice. There were also important differences in the way in which different groups of staff saw advocacy, with CPNs having the best understanding. Experiences of advocacy were positive and it was seen as being helpful both for clients and staff, despite fears that advocates might work to their ‘own agendas'.
There is a need to improve psychiatrists' understanding of what advocacy is, through the involvement of advocates and service users in their training. This would help to allay their anxieties about the role of advocates.
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