Trauma-informed approaches in primary care and community mental health care (TAP CARE) study

Researchers at the University of Bristol’s Centre for Academic Primary Care are leading a study, funded by the NIHR Bristol Biomedical Research Centre, to inform the development of a UK-specific trauma-informed model of care that will help GPs and community mental health professionals care more sensitively for patients.

Why is this research important?

Trauma is widespread, harmful and costly. It occurs as a result of violence, abuse, neglect, loss, disaster, war and other emotionally harmful experiences. Most patients seeking mental health services have experienced trauma, with abuse most commonly having occurred in childhood. Patients can be re-traumatised in health care environments or in relationships with health care professionals that are not adapted to consider, recognise and respond sensitively to that trauma.

A trauma-informed model of care involves using a series of guiding principles when treating patients, including safety, trustworthiness and transparency, peer support, collaboration and mutuality, empowerment and choice, and cultural, historical and gender issues. It includes making service improvements, and training staff about the impact of trauma and ways of treating patients in a way that does not trigger their traumatic experiences.

The concept of trauma-informed care, developed in the US, has recently been implemented in the UK in the areas of criminal justice, homelessness, schools, and children and family services. However, there are few examples of trauma-informed practice in health care settings. NHS England has recommended developing the evidence base to demonstrate the value of trauma-informed health care approaches in the UK.

The study

Using Cochrane methods, the study team will conduct a systematic review to establish the evidence base for the effectiveness of trauma-informed approaches in other countries and to identify successful models that could be adopted in the UK.

The systematic review will be complemented by a review of policy documents on trauma-informed health care. The team will bring the results together in an evidence synthesis to inform development of a UK-specific model of trauma-informed health care that can be used in general practice and community care. They will collaborate with healthcare professionals and patient and public involvement (PPI) groups, particularly seeking the advice of members of the public who have experienced trauma and have sought treatment from health care services. Read the reflections of one of our public contributors (PDF) on being involved in the study.

Find out more

Find out the latest news about the TAP CARE study and read the study protocol.

Contact Dr Natalia Lewis, Research Fellow at the Centre for Academic Primary Care.