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Durham University

Department of Sociology

Completed Projects

Interprofessional Education for Community Mental Health

A research project of the Department of Sociology.


In 1997, the West Midlands Region NHS Executive commissioned a new training programme for mental health professionals (psychologists, CPNs, social workers, OTs and psychiatrists) who work with people with severe and long-term mental illness. There are 50 places available each year on this part-time, post-graduate programme which is provided by Birmingham University. It can be taken for 1, 2 or 3 years, leading to Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma and Masters degrees. The curriculum focuses in particular on psychosocial interventions, including cognitive behaviour therapy and family intervention, team and interagency working and user involvement.


The Centre of Applied Social Studies at the University of Durham was commissioned to carry out an evaluation of the course. The issues examined were:

  • the experiences and views of trainees
  • inter-professional learning on the course
  • the extent to which learning can be implemented in practice and can influence the work of colleagues
  • the outcomes for service users


The evaluation followed four cohorts of trainees through the course, recording changes in attitudes and practice.

Outputs for trainees were examined in terms of:

  • attitudes to community care
  • professional identification
  • inter-professional attitudes.

Implementing learning was assessed by:

  • monitoring the use of psychosocial interventions in trainees' practice
  • exploring difficulties in implementing the skills and knowledge learnt

Context for innovation was investigated through:

  • a study of organisational factors within trusts and social services departments
  • the functioning of mental health teams
  • opportunities for instigating change and innovation.


The Programme makes a significant contribution to the knowledge and skills capacity of the West Midland's mental health workforce.

  • Students reacted very positively to the Programme teaching because it was relevant and up-to-date, evidence-based and stressed values and service user perspectives.
  • Despite being interprofessional, the Programme did not significantly change students' attitudes towards their own profession or modify the professional stereotypes they held. Possible reasons were that they did not regard participants as 'typical' of their professions and that the teaching did not provide enough conditions to bring about change to counteract students' everyday experiences in their workplace.
  • Students acquired skills and knowledge relevant to their practice.
  • A lack of time and resources was the key barrier to implementing learning.
  • The scope for organisational change was limited because many teams were not especially open to new ideas and innovation. The best results were found where more than one student from a team had attended the Programme, suggesting a 'critical mass' can support innovation.
  • There was evidence of positive outcomes in terms of improved mental health and social functioning for service users with whom students worked. This was possibly as a result of a combination of using new skills, working from a service user perspective, and the motivation and personality of the student.


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