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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.
Aims – The aim of this work is to present the main discrepancies, as evidenced by the SIEP-DIRECT's Project, between the evidence-based NICE guidelines for schizophrenia and the usual practices of the Italian mental health services in order to promote the recovery of patients with schizophrenia. Methods – Starting from the main NICE recommendations on recovery promotion, 41 indicators were developed. These were experimented in 19 participating Italian Mental Health Departments (MHD) or Psychiatric Services through self-evaluation of the activities carried out to promote patient recovery with the aim of assessing the level of adherence to the recommendations. The data required by most of the indicators were obtained from the psychiatric informative system or from the Direction of the MHD. Moreover, specific research was carried out on the clinical records and on representative patient samples. Furthermore, for 14 indicators, there was requested an assessment by the part of “multidisciplinary” or “specialistic” focus groups who then attributed a score according to a defined “ad hoc” scale. Results – According to the data obtained, although the mental health services seem to care about the physical condition of their patients, they do not routinely examine principle parameters such as blood pressure, glycaemia etc., and collaboration with general practitioners is often complex or not uniformly practiced. Most psychiatrists and psychologists possess the basic communication skills but not enough competences in cognitive-behavioural treatments; such treatments, and every other form of structured individual psychotherapy, are seldom carried out and seem to have become marginal activities within the Services. Also family psycho-educational interventions are under-used. The Services are very active in the care of multi-problem schizophrenia patients, who make up a large percentage (almost a quarter, on average) of the patients in their care. These patients are offered specific and integrated treatment plans with the involvement of other health services and social agencies operating in the territory. The strategies adopted by the services for the pharmacological treatment in the prevention of relapses and for patients with frequent crises or with treatment-resistant schizophrenia are all in line with the NICE recommendations. Finally, the Services promote activities of vocational training and supported employment, but the outcomes of these are often unsatisfactory. Conclusions – The results of the study show a picture of the Italian mental health services with bright yet also dark areas as regards recovery promotion activities. The Services seem to guarantee adequate pharmacological evidence-based treatments, an integrated assistance and good management of multi-problem patients. They have difficulty, however, with respect to the monitoring of the physical health of the patients, psychotherapeutic activities, including those for families, and the promotion of supported employment. Moreover, they still show problems regarding the structuring and formalizing of care processes. To improve this situation, they should make greater use of professional guidelines, protocols and written procedures.
Declaration of Interest: None.
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