BACKGROUND Despite the growth in patient satisfaction studies, scant attention has been paid to the satisfaction of patients with a first episode of psychotic illness soon after presentation to services. We were particularly interested in any ethnic differences in satisfaction at this seminal stage in patient care.
METHOD Using multi-item questionnaire, face-to-face interviews were conducted with patients and relatives 12 months after first contact with psychiatric services. Relatives were also questioned on support and advice issues related to after-care.
RESULTS Most patients and relatives were generally satisfied with the treatment, and with the 'humane' qualities of psychiatric staff, but were less satisfied with the 'hotel' aspects of hospital care. Patients, and particularly relatives, were most concerned about levels of information and advice received. Relatives were dissatisfied with after-care. There were no significant differences between Black and other patients, but some differences between their relatives. Patients born abroad were significantly more satisfied than those born in Britain, irrespective of ethnicity. Compulsory detention under the Mental Health Act was also significant in determining low satisfaction for patients and especially for their relatives.
CONCLUSIONS For improved care in the community patients and their relatives need to be seen as partners in care rather than as passive recipients. The issue of information-giving by psychiatric services demands serious attention. Black patients and their relatives were not especially likely to be dissatisfied.