Assertive outreach team and caseload survey
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The UK Department of Health requires the provision of Assertive Outreach (AO) for adults with severe mental health problems, high use of hospital, difficulty maintaining contact with services and complex or multiple needs (Department of Health, 2001). AO is a mental health service taken to service users, through which staff with low caseloads deliver practical support, care co-ordination and advocacy. Its approach is holistic, with an intensive focus on needs. This survey, commissioned by a consortium of 12 mental health and primary care trusts in the north east of England, examined in detail the caseloads of all 28 dedicated AO teams in those trusts. The aims were: to describe the organisation and operation of these relatively new teams, and to describe the demographics, diagnoses, service use, medication, risk factors and social problems of the study cohort. It was found that, as intended, AO teams are treating people with complex and severe mental health needs. However there appears to be considerable variation between trusts with respect to risk factors, severity of mental health problems and global functioning of those service users in contact with AO teams.