Needs-led assessment in health and social care : a community-based comparative study
The assessment of need underpins the delivery of community-based care. Following the NHS and Community Care Act (1990), the principle of needs-led assessment was reinforced as it applied to the assessment and care management process. Translation of needs-led assessment into practice in Scotland has been further influenced by policy-based organisational change including the introduction of Single Shared Assessment and Community Health Partnerships. This study seeks to describe the political and practice landscape within which needs-led assessment exists, identify and explore factors which influence needs-led assessment, and consider the practice implications of the policy driver for community-based practitioners across the main disciplines of health and social care. Following a short pilot, the main study was undertaken using sequences vignettes within a semi-structured interview involving 105 social workers, health and housing staff. Key findings indicated a cloak of consensus around definitions of need and assessment with perceptions based upon a medical or social model of care or a professionally or personality-driven assessment of need. A preoccupation with the outcome of assessments caused many respondents to describe needs with reference to the interventions or resources required to address them. The practice of needs-led assessment, according to study results, was hampered by an awareness of resource availability, concerns over client compliance and risk and, an underlying alignment to the values and principles upheld by the employing discipline.