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Service user experiences of mental health assessments: a systematic review and thematic synthesis of qualitative literature

Patel, P., Kennedy, A., Carr, S. , Gillard, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-9686-2232, Harris, P. & Sweeney, A. (2022). Service user experiences of mental health assessments: a systematic review and thematic synthesis of qualitative literature. Journal of Mental Health, pp. 1-14. doi: 10.1080/09638237.2022.2069691


Successive governments have placed service users’ experiences at the heart of mental health services delivery and development. However, little is known about service users’ experiences of assessments and there is some evidence that assessments can cause harm.

To synthesise the qualitative literature on service users’ experiences of undergoing mental health service assessments.

Literature was systematically searched, screened and extracted, following PRISMA guidelines. Several search strategies were employed, including electronic database searches, handsearching, and forward and backward citation tracking, to identify literature which contained data on service users’ experiences of mental health assessments. Thematic synthesis was used to derive a set of themes underpinning these experiences.

Of the 10,137 references screened, 47 were identified as relevant to the review. Two main themes were identified: the importance of humanising assessment processes and experiences of service user agency, with each theme containing four sub-themes.

Findings highlight key factors determining service user experience. We identify key practice implications, contextualised within the literature on trauma-informed approaches and conclude that trauma-informed approaches may aid understanding and improvement of people’s assessment experiences. Further research into the experiences of people from Black and minority ethnic communities is indicated.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Journal of Mental Health on 13 Aug 2022, available at:
Publisher Keywords: Assessments, service user experience, qualitative, systematic review, thematic synthesis
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
R Medicine > RT Nursing
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Nursing
SWORD Depositor:
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