Rapid needs appraisal in the modern NHS: potential and dilemmas

Balogh, R., Whitelaw, S. and Thompson, J. (2008) Rapid needs appraisal in the modern NHS: potential and dilemmas. Critical Public Health, 18(2), pp. 233-244. (doi: 10.1080/09581590701377010)

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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09581590701377010


This paper reports on our experience of undertaking a Rapid Appraisal of Health and Social Needs (RNA) in West Cumbria, UK. RNA aims to identify community-defined problems and to collect intelligence for action rather than simply for documentation. The broad nature of the study is summarised and we reflect critically on methodological and structural issues that arose. A number of inter-related themes were significant: the limitations of a ‘rapid’ approach; within an action frame, the implications that arose from focusing on locality capacity-building; the ability that commissioning organisations had in this public health domain; and the way in which such organisations tend to construct ‘needs’. These themes then are located in problematic contexts. Primarily, we were working with a fledgling NHS organisation, arguably set unrealistically high expectations to deliver innovative public health functions. Furthermore, the desire to see the NHS working more efficiently resulted in the expectation that the exercise should be done in a particular way—within a realist tradition of arriving at quick, simple and ‘definitive’ needs. We conclude by suggesting that if such work is to be meaningful then there needs to be a number of pre-cursors: an initial consensus on the nature of ‘need’; an agreement between commissioners and researchers around common frameworks and realistic expectations of the process; and finally, an acceptance of the importance of history in this work and the way histories of local inter-agency work reflect embedded forms of local knowledge. We suggest that NHS volatility means that much of this knowledge is often lost.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:participatory appraisal; capacity-building; inter-agency collaboration; partnerships; community profiling; health profiling; research commissioning
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Balogh, Dr Ruth and Thompson, Dr Jane and Whitelaw, Dr Alexander
Authors: Balogh, R., Whitelaw, S., and Thompson, J.
Subjects:H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social & Environmental Sustainability
Journal Name:Critical Public Health
Journal Abbr.:CPH
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN (Online):1469–3682
Published Online:18 June 2008

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