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Psychiatr Rehabil J. 2012 Winter;35(3):251-7. doi: 10.2975/35.3.2012.251.257.

Transition experiences of mental health service users, parents, and professionals in the United Kingdom: a qualitative study.

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Institute of Education, University of London, London, UK.



The aim of this study was to describe the experiences of child and adolescent mental health service (CAMHS) users, parents and professionals in relation to transition between CAMHS and adult mental health services (AMHS) in the United Kingdom.


Young people were sampled from an observational study population of people reaching the transition boundary between CAMHS and AMHS. We thematically analyzed qualitative interviews with service users, parents and clinicians.


Eleven service users were interviewed and linked interviews were completed with parents (n=6), and responsible clinicians in CAMHS (n=3) and AMHS (n=6). Informal and gradual preparation, transfer planning meetings, periods of parallel care, and consistency in key-workers promoted positive experiences of transition. Transfers between AMHS, changes of key-worker and waiting lists were viewed negatively. Other life transitions, including changes in housing, pregnancy, physical illness, and the involvement of parents or other services were sometimes powerful extraneous influences on transition experiences.


The cumulative effect of multiple transitions is a complex and unsettling experience for many service users. Service user experiences are more likely to be positive if healthcare transition is a gradual process, tailored to the young person's needs and managed in the context of the other simultaneous practical, developmental and psychosocial transitions. Transfer planning meetings and parallel care were valued by all parties and should be standard practice at transition. CAMHS and AMHS need to work jointly to improve the transition process in these ways in order to enhance the outcomes for young people.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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