Can a standardized needs assessment be used to improve the care of people with severe mental disorders? A pilot study of ‘needs feedback’
The care programme approach (CPA) was introduced in the United Kingdom in 1991 to ensure that the needs of people with mental health problems are met appropriately. Many community psychiatric nurses (CPNs) act as ‘key workers’ under the CPA. Recent evidence suggests that the CPA is not particularly effective at meeting the needs of this vulnerable group, but it might be possible to enhance the CPA by introducing a more ‘needs-led’ approach to the planning of nursing care. ‘Needs feedback’ is a technique for enhancing the CPA. Needs feedback begins with a standardized assessment of patients’ psychiatric and social needs by a nurse specialist. The patient’s CPN is then provided with information on: (a) the needs identified; (b) why these needs have been identified; (c) the interventions required to meet the identified needs; and (d) how these interventions may be obtained. In the pilot study reported in this paper, 20 patients with severe mental disorder were evaluated before and after their CPN received needs feedback. All patients were living in the community and being managed by CPNs under the CPA. Outcome was assessed 6 months after the feedback in terms of: mental state, social behaviour and number of ‘unmet’ needs. Needs feedback was found to be compatible with the CPA in that it proved acceptable to CPNs and patients. Significant improvements were seen in the number of ‘unmet’ needs and the level of anxious/depressive symptoms. Improvements approaching significance were seen for social functioning and negative psychiatric symptoms, but not for positive psychiatric symptoms. This pilot study suggests that needs feedback may improve the quality of nursing assessment and care planning within the CPA. Further controlled investigations of needs feedback are justified.