A review of the literature on the historical development of community mental health services in the United Kingdom
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Community mental health encompasses a diverse range of statutory, voluntary and informal care services. However, little has been written about how changes in policy, legislation and philosophies throughout time impact on the service user experience of mental health care today. The purpose of this paper was to review the literature using systematic approaches and address the question: 'How have historical factors influenced the development of community mental health care in the United Kingdom?' Following a comprehensive literature search, we included 70 texts. Owing to the difficulties of classifying historical texts numerically, two themes were identified: (1) changing perspectives towards mental illness and the mentally ill; and (2) the complexities of mental health care provision. We structured the review around these themes. A narrative approach was used to illustrate the diversity within the identified texts. In response to the review question, an exploration of the historical literature demonstrates that some form of community care has always been evident. It also suggests that over time different philosophical ideas have influenced mental health policy and service structure. These have in turn shaped the care a service user receives when they come into contact with mental health professionals.