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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Quality standards for child and adolescent mental health in primary care

Kapil Sayal1*, Myanthi Amarasinghe2, Sarah Robotham2, Caroline Coope2, Mark Ashworth3, Crispin Day2, Andre Tylee2 and Emily Simonoff2

Author Affiliations

1 Section of Developmental Psychiatry, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2UH, UK

2 King’s College London (Institute of Psychiatry), London, UK

3 Department of Primary Care and Public Health Sciences, King’s College London School of Medicine, London, UK

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BMC Family Practice 2012, 13:51  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-13-51

Published: 6 June 2012

Abstract

Background

Child and adolescent mental health problems are common in primary healthcare settings. However, few parents of children with mental health problems express concerns about these problems during consultations. Based on parental views, we aimed to create quality of care measures for child and adolescent mental health in primary care and develop consensus about the importance of these quality standards within primary care.

Methods

Quality Standards were developed using an iterative approach involving four phases: 1) 34 parents with concerns about their child’s emotional health or behaviour were recruited from a range of community settings including primary care practices to participate in focus group discussions, followed by validation groups or interviews. 2) Preliminary Quality Standards were generated that fully represented the parents’ experiences and were refined following feedback from an expert parent nominal group. 3) 55 experts, including parents and representatives from voluntary organisations, across five panels participated in a modified two-stage Delphi study to develop consensus on the importance of the Quality Standards. The panels comprised general practitioners, other community-based professionals, child and adolescent psychiatrists, other child and adolescent mental health professionals and public health and policy specialists. 4) The final set of Quality Standards was piloted with 52 parents in primary care.

Results

In the Delphi process, all five panels agreed that 10 of 31 Quality Standards were important. Although four panels rated 25–27 statements as important, the general practitioner panel rated 12 as important. The final 10 Quality Standards reflected healthcare domains involving access, confidentiality for young people, practitioner knowledge, communication, continuity of care, and referral to other services. Parents in primary care agreed that all 10 statements were important.

Conclusions

It is feasible to develop a set of Quality Standards to assess mental healthcare provision for children and adolescents seen within primary healthcare services. Primary care practitioners should be aware of parental perspectives about quality of care as these may influence help-seeking behaviours.