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The potential of new knowledge for public mental healthcare organisations: the case of absorptive capacity in child and adolescent mental health services

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posted on 2023-08-30, 17:40 authored by Lida Efstathopoulou
The purpose of this study is to investigate the potential of absorptive capacity in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Absorptive capacity is an organisation’s ability to identify new external knowledge, assimilate it and use it for improving its performance. The construct has recently been studied in the public sector and findings showed that it can offer useful insights for advancing service provision; yet, evidence remains limited. CAMHS are called to respond to different knowledge areas in order to improve service quality and tackle service fragmentation, while they are among the most challenged health services due to low funding. Improving CAMHS can increase the chances for a healthier adult life, as most mental health conditions begin to develop at young ages. Studying the absorptive capacity of CAMHS could contribute to cultivating their responsiveness to new knowledge and, thus, the quality of provided services. A case study design was developed involving one NHS mental health organisation. Data collected from semi-structured interviews and organisational documents were analysed to identify processes of knowledge identification, assimilation and exploitation. Interviews were also conducted with staff members of local organisations involved in CAMH service provision to understand the role of the external environment in shaping the absorptive capacity of the CAMHS department. The findings demonstrated that knowledge sourced by certain public organisations, such as NHS management and regulatory bodies, is often prioritised within the CAMHS department due to the commitment of the case study organisation to utilise knowledge from such organisations. Those dependency relationships limit the ability of the department to identify and utilise new knowledge from other sources, such as knowledge from the local external environment, which is valuable for improving service provision. The heterogeneous character of the local environment appeared to further restrain the identification of valuable knowledge, as well as knowledge exchange for the development of joint services. Finally, findings stressed the role of individuals in shaping the department’s absorptive capacity. Absorptive capacity could be as a useful organisational construct which could assist CAMHS in improving their responsiveness to new and diverse knowledge – an ability that is valuable to transforming the mental health services provided to children and young people.



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