Activities on acute inpatient mental health wards: A qualitative narrative synthesis

Concern about the lack of activities on mental health inpatient wards is long-standing with reports consistently finding that service users receive insufficient access to a range of activities and report high levels of boredom. There is recognition that little is known about what services users want when admitted to inpatient wards. This review seeks to understand service users’ experiences and views in relation to the provision and availability of activities, and to explore the perceived benefits and barriers to service users.

We searched multiple databases (Scopus, Medline, CINHAL, PsychINFO, and Embase) for studies that evaluated activities on acute adult inpatient mental health wards. We identified 12 papers across a range of methodological designs from which the narrative synthesis has been analysed.

Findings show that the provision of activities is unsatisfactory for many service users which in turn is relates to increased boredom that has a negative impact on service users’ wellbeing. We explore the benefits and barriers to engagement, providing an insight into the aspects that make an activity important. We conclude that there are few studies exploring the needs of service users regarding activity provision, therefore there is limited knowledge about what is meaningful for individuals.