IAPT at Sea On Risk Assessment

A study just published by Na et al (2018)  in the Journal of Affective Disorders*  suggests that item 9 of the PHQ-9 is an insufficient assessment tool for suicide risk and suicide ideation, creating large numbers of false positives. Yet within IAPT, GP’s may be informed that either there are no risk issues on the basis of a ‘not at all’ response to  item 9, ‘thoughts that you would be better off dead or of hurting yourself’ or that there are risk issues on the basis that they have been bothered by these thoughts for at least several days in the last 2 weeks. The message is usually communicated to the GP following a telephone assessment conducted by the most junior members of staff a Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner. The GP then feels obliged to call the patient in for an assessment which turns out to be invariably pointless, not good for the patient or for the GP who may be seeing 40 patients that day!

A (2012) paper on IAPT by Vail et al ** stated ‘that IAPT clinicians did not have set procedures or questions for assessing mental health risk, and were  flexible in the approaches they adopted. They often relied upon their own clinical judgement and experience about how to approach the topic of mental health risk’. This chimes with what I found in an analysis of 90 cases going through IAPT, Scott (2018) in only three cases was there mention of risk in the documentation. Inspection of item 9 on the PHQ-9 shows that it confounds passive suicidal ideation with active planning making it unclear what the frequency response refers to, creating many false positives.

More direct questionning based on the C-SSRS * is probably more appropriate:

Have you started to work out or worked out details of how to kill yourself? Do you intend to carry out this plan ?

Have you made a suicide attempt- purposely tried to harm yourself with at least some intention to end your life?

Have you  taken any steps to prepare to kill yourself or actually started to do something to end your life or were stopped before you actually did anything?

A none response to either of the 3 questions would indicate no suicide risk.

* Na, P.J et al (2018) The PHQ-9 item 9 based screening f or suicide risk: a validation study of the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ) – 9 item 9 with the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) Journal of Affective Disorders, 232, 34-40.

** Vail, L (2012) Investigating mental health risk assessment in primary care and the potential role of a structured decision support tool, GRIST. Mental Health in Family Medicine, 9, 57-67

 

Dr Mike Scott

IAPT Behind Closed Doors – Supervision

As I mentioned in my first post last week I was working in IAPT in Bury in 2015. Clinical Supervision was delivered in the group setting and was not compulsory to attend.  Often the supervision had to be postponed for several weeks if the supervisor was either not available or was on holiday or had casework at a higher step which took precedence over the needs of the group.  Personal supervision was a similarly structured affair, with pressure and time constraints eating into very short sessions.

 

It was incumbent upon the supervisee to ensure that “risky cases” were discussed in a timely manner, since it was the supervisee’s responsibility to “raise the alarm”.  In many cases, the supervisee was not aware that any alarm needed to be raised, since they were inexperienced with either the identification or managing of risk with regard to mental health patients.  Please do not take this as a criticism of my colleagues; it is a criticism of the system’s failure to provide them with the knowledge they needed to understand the risks.

Anonymity protected Dr Mike Scott

 

Fatal Consequences of Missed Disorder

On Tuesday last BBC News at Ten reported a Serious case review of the murder of 2 year old Ayeeshia-Jayne Smith at the hands of her mother, which concluded that social workers failure to identify significant psychological disorder played a pivotal role in the child’s death. Would CBT practitioners have been any better at identifying such disorder? It is not an academic question, the mother or her then partner could have come a CBT practitioners way as a referral from Social Services because of ‘issues with anger’.

The social workers had focussed largely on the supposedly supportive relationship between the mother and child, but there were concerns, a Risk Assessment meeting was held the day before the murder! But had they screened the parents for say borderline personality disorder and if positive done a more detailed examination, using reliable diagnostic criteria, their approach would have arguably been more balanced, resulting in earlier action. The diffiiculty is that for social workers and CBT practitioners staying in their comfort/ ideological zone of relationships is easier.

Existing risk assessment procedures, represent an expert consensus and to my knowledge there is no empirical evidence that they predict outcome. Agencies promote them but it is more a matter of them covering their back.

The 7 Minute Interview contains the following Screen for BPD and its’ psychometric prpoerties were discussed in an earlier post.

11. Yes No Don’t know
Do you have a lot of sudden changes of mood, usually lasting for no more than a few hours?
Do you often have temper outbursts or get so angry you lose control?
Is this something with which you would like help?