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Study will investigate how UK’s emergency services interact with vulnerable users

A ground-breaking study to investigate the lived experiences of those with a mental health condition, disability or impairment who have, at one time or another, come into contact with the UK’s emergency services has launched.

This qualitative research is being conducted by UK’s advocacy charity, POhWER, to find out more about how the emergency services interact with this group of people, where there are conflicts and what potential solutions can be implemented to ensure that all people receive the same quality of treatment within this fast-paced environment.

It will do this by giving anyone who is happy to share their story the chance to tell it. This includes those who:

  • Are living with a mental health condition, disability or impairment and have personally had an experience with emergency services
  • Have been restricted, banned, discouraged or turned away from using emergency services
  • Have supported someone using emergency services through holding the role of a carer, family member or advocate
  • Have worked or currently work in emergency services delivering support to people who live with mental health and disabilities

The charity hopes that, through taking this listening approach rather than pushing out a tick-box survey, it will acquire more holistic and meaningful feedback. This can then be used to help inform officials working in that area on which aspects of the service are benefitting all societal groups and which accommodate one more than another and could potentially breach crucial human rights.

POhWER has a wealth of experience in this area through providing support, advice and advocacy services to vulnerable, marginalised and socially excluded individuals across the UK for nearly 25 years. It has no one set beneficiary but instead provides all-important support to anyone who feels that they are not being heard or their rights are not being properly upheld within the public health system or in secure settings such as psychiatric care units, prisons and residential facilities.

Through its wide range of services, including its national helpline, one-to-one support and community advocacy, it was able to help over 400,000+ people in the last year alone through empowering them to have a voice when they can be heard and speaking on their behalf when they can’t.

All conversations with POhWER’s experienced researchers will take place over Zoom or phone calls that will last from 30 minutes to an hour and consist of 6 to 8 questions. They will be taking place between August and October of this year, and times are flexible.

Helen Moulinos, Chief Executive at POhWER, said:

“Through the work we do at POhWER, our advocates regularly hear from people living with mental health and disabilities who have had mixed experiences when engaging with emergency services. While some report being treated with complete respect, others have questioned what rights they had in seemingly difficult situations, including where restrictions are in place that limits their use of – or bars them completely from – services that could potentially be lifesaving.

“But there are now 13.5 million people in the UK living with these conditions, so it has never been more important to understand their experiences and, if there are persistent issues that people are dealing with, work together to improve the processes and strengthen human rights in these situations. Living with mental health, impairment, or disability should not be a barrier to receiving life-saving emergency support.

“That’s why we are proactively launching this study – we’re asking for people who have been affected to come forward and tell us your story for a co-produced piece of research. We hope to meet people affected, carers and family members and people working within emergency services to enable us to understand how the wider system has operated. We hope this can then be used to help us to campaign and advocate in the future for a fair and equal system in an environment where we understand how split-second choices need to be made.”

Those happy to speak to POhWER about their experience can email research@pohwer.net with their name and contact details. Details of the study can be found on POhWER’s website: www.pohwer.net/emergency-services-study.

All responses will be captured anonymously to protect the confidentiality of participants and handled in line with POhWER’s strict GDPR policy. Participants can also choose not to answer certain questions and withdraw their consent from participating in the study at any time.

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