International Practice Development Journal


Title of ArticleImproving the timeliness of mental health assessment for children and adolescents in a multidisciplinary team
Type of ArticleOriginal Practice Development and Research
Author/sNicola Evans
ReferenceVolume 4, Issue 1, Article 7
Date of PublicationMay 2014
Keywordsaction research, brief assessment, child and adolescent mental health, triage

Background: The waiting list for outpatient Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) appointments exceeded 12 months. This paper discusses the development and implementation of a bespoke mental health assessment process that improved the timeliness of assessments for referred children and adolescents.

Aim: To introduce a new system of managing referrals to reduce the waiting list for children and their families.

Methods: Action research methodology was used as an approach to engage practitioners and facilitate change within a multidisciplinary CAMHS in the UK. The methods used to generate data about the intervention were semi structured interviews with families referred to the services and with practitioners working in the team, as well as an examination of waiting list data and a survey of referrers to the service.

Findings: As a result of the implementation of a triage approach, the waiting time for a referred child to receive an initial CAMHS assessment was reduced from 12 months to all children being assessed within one month of referral. Referrers to the service and families involved valued the quick response from CAMHS.

Conclusions: This was a bespoke process that combined a brief clinical interview, the use of psychometric measures and a team review meeting to create an effective mechanism for conducting brief, robust mental health assessments.

Implications for practice:

  • It was possible to glean sufficient detail about the nature of a child’s mental health difficulties from a brief assessment or triage process
  • A brief assessment process might be useful in a number of mental health fields to enable screening, triage or a gateway assessment to be conducted
  • Action research was a useful approach to engage practitioners as collaborating partners during organisational change in a way that promoted sustainability for that change

This article by Nicola Evans is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 License.

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