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This paper reviews the scientific literature on needs assessment of individuals living in the community. Providing an overview of the field with a focus on capturing useful information for planning health interventions in the community, this paper will highlight:
- The current policy context that underpins the importance of needs assessment in health care;
- Key papers and basic theoretical concepts that can guide a coherent approach to community care needs assessment, including Bradshaw, 1972 and Stevens & Gabbay, 1991;
- The development of semi-structured interviews in mental health as a focus for designing new tools - with the Camberwell Assessment of Need (CAN) being the most well known;
- How to deal with the organisational issues involved with the assessment of unmet need in the community;
- The current evidence base for developing a national approach to needs assessment;
- And a brief look at the latest self-reported needs assessment instruments.