Objectives: To review national (UK) literature in order to (i) examine service user and carer views of UK-registered mental health nurses; (ii) identify the diversity of populations from which these views have been collected; (iii) assess the methodological rigour of the current knowledge base and (iv) evaluate the extent to which service users and carers have been involved in the development and execution of this work. This paper reports only on service users' views. Design: Systematic review. Data sources: Electronic and evidence-based databases, reference checking and hand searching of key academic journals, national policy and user/carer organisational websites. Review methods: Two reviewers independently undertook study eligibility judgements and data extraction. Eligible studies were sub-classified according to service setting (inpatient/residential, community/non-residential or mixed/unspecified). Each study was assessed against key quality criteria. Data were synthesised in a narrative format. Results: One hundred and thirty two studies were included in the review. The majority were small-scale academic studies biased towards white, adult service users. Few studies provided evidence of user collaboration. Service users regard mental health nursing as a multi-faceted role delivering practical and social support alongside more formal psychological therapies. Service users report inadequate information provision, poor inter-professional communication and a lack of opportunities for collaborative care. Service users perceive inpatient mental health nurses as particularly inaccessible. Conclusions: UK-registered mental health nurses should be equipped with both therapeutic clinical skills and generic skills associated with relationship building, engagement and communication. Future research should be conducted in collaboration with service users and include clear and effective mechanisms for the dissemination and implementation of research findings. In particular, the views of children and adolescents, the elderly and black and minority ethnic groups, currently under-represented in research, should be examined.