Chains of (dis)trust: exploring the underpinnings of knowledge sharing and quality care across mental health services

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Brown, Patrick ; Calnan, Michael .W. (2016)

Quality and safety in healthcare settings are underpinned by organisational cultures, which facilitate or impede the refinement, sharing and application of knowledge. Avoiding the use of the term culture as a residual category, we focus specifically on describing chains of (dis)trust, analysing their development across relatively low-trust service contexts and their impact upon knowledge-sharing and caregiving. Drawing upon data from in-depth interviews with service users, healthcare professionals, service managers and other stakeholders across three mental healthcare (psychosis) teams in southern England, we identify micro-mechanisms that explain how (dis)trust within one intra-organisational relationship impacts upon other relationships. Experiences and inferences of vulnerability, knowledge, uncertainty, interests and time, among actors who are both trustees and trusters across different relationships, are pertinent to such analyses. This more micro-level understanding facilitates detailed conceptualisations of trust chains as meso-level tendencies that contribute to wider vicious or virtuous cycles of organisational (dis)trust. We explore how knowledge-sharing and caregiving are vitally interwoven within these chains of trust or distrust, enhancing and/or inhibiting the instrumental and communicative aspects of quality healthcare as a result.
  • References (1)

    Acemoglu, D. and Wolitzky, A. (2012) Cycles of distrust: an economic model. NBER Working Paper No. 18257. Available at: (accessed 1 December 2013).

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