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Aims – To evaluate the quality of psychiatric care during the acute psychotic episode and the early post-acute period. Methods – Data concerning 24 indicators, drawn from NICE recommendations, were collected in 19 Departments of Mental Health, in the frame of the SIEP-DIRECT's Project to evaluate the implementation of NICE recommendations in Italian Mental Health Services. Results – The treatment of the acute episode in the Italian Mental Health Services is not based only on admissions in Psychiatric Ward in General Hospitals, but also on intensive home based care. The utilization of day hospital facilities for treating acute episodes is less frequent, as the presence of home based follow up after discharge. About of Departments of Mental Health did not have clinical guidelines concerning the pharmacological treatment in this area. However usually the standard practices followed NICE recommendations in terms of prescribed dosages, monitoring side effects and rationale for shifting to atypical antipsychotic drugs. Antipsychotic drugs, atypical or conventional, were frequently prescribed concurrently, while utilization of atypical antipsychotic drugs was increasing. Conclusions – The results show critical points concerning on one hand the scarce diffusion of clinical guidelines, on other hand the connection between standard practices, clinical guidelines and marketing of atypical antipsychotic drugs. It should be reinforced the role of the community and particularly at service level the capacity of community mental health teams to treat the acute patients.
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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