Perceived impact of formulating, implementing and enacting national mental health policies recommendations in practice: An exploratory qualitative study within child and adolescent mental health services in Scotland

Madalina Toma (Lead / Corresponding author), Julie Anderson, Sarah Forster, Paula Shiels, Shirley Windsor, Nicola M. Gray

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Abstract

Objective: To understand the process of formulating, implementing and enacting national recommendations into practice, by exploring the interactions between government policymakers and national and local organisations supporting and delivering policy implementation within a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) context in Scotland.

Methods: Data collection involved 16 semi-structured individual and four focus group interviews with a purposeful sample of policymakers, national health and social care stakeholders and local outpatient and inpatient CAMHS teams representing three NHS health boards in Scotland.

Results: Study participants highlighted the challenges of navigating through evolving and often conflicting policy agendas, seen to not acknowledging the current evidence base or experiential learning from services and prior evaluations. Accounts of transformation fatigue often emerged from increased expectations for staff to adopt new approaches to accommodate constantly changing recommendations. Participants also reported a lack of integration and implementation support from national health and social care organisations, leading to duplication of effort and gaps in provision or waste. Policy recommendations were perceived as sometimes vague, lacking clarity about how to deliver service transformation using a whole-system approach. The collective narratives reflected increased tension between the need for local autonomy to innovate and the limitations created vertically by the relative inflexibility of policy recommendations, and horizontally by the proliferation of national organisations delivering the same transformation aims using different approaches in a resource-constrained environment.

Conclusion: The findings contribute to the wider literature by offering an exploration of importance of evaluation and evidence uptake in policy formulation; the roles and remits in supporting the implementation of policy recommendations; and how the dynamics of central control and local autonomy might impact on the local enactment of policy recommendations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-210
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Health Services Research and Policy
Volume27
Issue number3
Early online date28 Feb 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

Keywords

  • children and young people
  • mental health
  • national policies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Policy

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