BUCKLAND Leonora, FIENNES Caroline
To investigate what may need to happen to help mental health charities make more evidence-informed decisions, this report examines how UK charities delivering mental health services currently produce, synthesise, disseminate and use evidence within their organisation. Semi-structured qualitative interviews with 12 mental health service delivery charities of varying sizes and qualitative interviews with four mental health sector experts were carried out. The project used an inclusive definition of evidence comprising: evaluation evidence, user feedback; practitioner evidence and contextual evidence (e.g., research into the prevalence or type of need). In relation to the production of evidence, the report found that mental health charities have focused primarily on producing practitioner and stakeholder evidence. Although larger charities are beginning to carry out more evaluation research, lack of resources remain a problem. It also identified little evidence produced by the charities interviewed being routinely synthesised or included in systematic reviews; weak dissemination channels; and little use of third-party evidence when making decisions. Although the number of charities interviewed was small, the report identifies some important gaps including: the need for more rigorous evaluation research about the effectiveness of charities’ interventions; the potential to make more use of existing the academic literature; and, for more evidence to be actively disseminated within the sector to enable greater learning. Recommendations to improve evidence systems are also included.