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Mersey Care’s chaplains are contributing to perfect care by co-producing research aimed at evidencing the value of co-production.

Co-production throughout the research cycle promises more effective services and improved patient experience. Mersey Care’s Spiritual and Pastoral Care (SPC) Team are co‑producing an action research cycle (ARC) with a Lived Experience Advisory Panel. We are working towards a randomised controlled trial. We anticipate our methodology will support similar research in other services.

We draw on Slay and Stephen’s (2013) assets based approach, valuing service users’, carers’, and staff members’ vital contributions. We affirm Kara’s (2013) insight that service users, carers, and staff may not be three distinct groups. We see co‑production entailing mutual respect rather than merely formal relationships and favour co‑production over purely clinician or user-controlled research. Chaplains are well-placed to undertake this pioneering work.

Using thematic analysis and constructivist grounded theory in Part One of our ARC, we identified what service users wanted from SPC. Part Two, a service evaluation, explored and defined standard provision. Part Three was successful at Stage 1 of a NIHR Research for Patient Benefit grant but rejected at Stage 2. Part Four, addressing the NIHR reviewers’ concerns, is underway. We are piloting our outcome measures and retention rates across clinical groups, making progress in isolating effects attributable to chaplains from interventions by others. Part Five, a conceptual study, promises deeper understanding of what service users consider to happening in SPC.

Collateral benefits include contributing research expertise into the Life Rooms evaluation. We are additionally preparing a project in Ashworth aimed at co‑producing a research problem around patients’ concerns. Mindful of inequalities in research opportunities and the potential worth of considering how patients understand their recovery or relapse, we will avoid anticipating the design.

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Spiritual Care and Perfect Care

The SPC Team’s research is independent, though sympathetic to the Centre for Perfect Care. Mersey Care funds the research but has not attempted to influence the findings.

Information about Spiritual and Pastoral Care

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Associated Publications