Level of Health Needs Assessment

Generic or population level

These examine the overall health needs of either the whole practice population or a community served by the practice.

They are often used to identify the key areas of health needs, and can be used to help focus further more detailed needs assessments.

Key areas of need can be defined in a number of ways e.g.

  • Prevalence or incidence of a health problem
  • Number of consultations or contacts associated with that problem
  • Most common reason for referral
  • Frequency and cost of procedures
  • Health problems perceived to be of most importance by patients, the local community or the primary health care team


Client group specific

These are used to examine the health needs of a specific group within the practice population, for example adults with mental health problems or older people. They are often undertaken where the practice already has an indication that the needs of a particular group are not being met effectively, for example if local mental health services are poor, or  where the group accounts for a large proportion of the practice’s population such as older people, or perhaps because the group appears to be using a disproportionate level of the practice’s resources, for example drug misusers.


Disease or intervention specific

This type of assessment can be valuable if a practice wishes to examine how well it is meeting the needs of patients in a specific disease area, either from the patients perspective or in terms of clinical effectiveness.

With this approach, it is important to remember that consultation, referral and prescribing rates do not equal need. Also, referral and prescribing rates could be affected by the doctor’s knowledge of the disease area or the availability of the service.  It is often important in this type of assessment to compare practice information with information from other sources, for example national or local prevalence and incidence figures, referral rates in comparable practices or guidance on clinical effectiveness .

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