Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 April 2011
Aims – This paper aims at presenting the most significant results emerging from the work carried out by the focus groups of the multi-centre Project SIEP-DIRECT's. The Project is aimed at assessing the existing discrepancies between the evidence-based NICE guidelines for schizophrenia and the usual practices of care given by Italian mental health services. Each focus group was requested to give an evaluation on: a) appropriateness of the English NICE guidelines in the context of the Italian mental health services; b) clarity and usefulness of the 103 indicators developed on the basis of the NICE recommendations to measure their level of application within the services. Methods - In each of the 19 mental health departments or psychiatric services participating in the Project there were organized “multidisciplinary” focus groups and “specialistic” focus groups. The former included, amongst others, professional operators of the mental health services, patients, their relatives, representatives of patient organizations and general practitioners. They examined the recommendations and indicators upon which the participants could express their opinion or judgment based on their knowledge, experience or information in their possession. The latter group, composed only of psychiatrists, examined the recommendations and indicators relative to pharmacological treatments that regarded the specific competences of their professional category. Results – Most NICE recommendations seemed appropriate to the working context of the Italian services. However, some perplexity emerged as regards specific organizational models of the services, such as the specific services for psychotic onsets or the assertive outreach teams, which were believed not to be strictly pertinent to the traditional organization of mental health care in our Country. There were also some criticisms regarding the cognitive-behavioural treatments which the NICE Guidelines recommend as the principle psychotherapeutic option for patients with schizophrenia, since in many Italian services, when the use of psychological interventions are needed, the tendency is to prefer interventions based on psychodynamic theories. The SIEP indicators were generally held to be clear and acceptable. Conclusions – In the view of the focus groups, the NICE guidelines are on the whole useful and suitable for orientating the services in the choice of more efficacious practices in the treatment of patients with schizophrenia. Moreover, the results obtained legitimate the use of the set of SIEP indicators for the evaluation of good practices and the quality of care offered by Italian services. Finally, the use of focus groups delines to a different context as well as the verification of the comprehensibility and applicability of SIEP indicators.
Declaration of Interest: None.