1 Guidance

The following guidance is based on the best available evidence. The full guideline gives details of the methods and the evidence used to develop the guidance.

This guideline was developed to provide an integrated approach to the identification and assessment of common mental health disorders, particularly in primary care. It draws together the recommendations from existing NICE guidance and addresses any gaps in the identification and assessment of these conditions. The guideline also provides advice for primary care and other staff on referral. Finally it sets out guidance for the development of effective local care pathways for people with common mental health disorders.

The guideline is organised according to the principles of stepped-care (see section 1.2).

1.1 Improving access to services

1.1.1.1 Primary and secondary care clinicians, managers and commissioners should collaborate to develop local care pathways (see also section 1.5) that promote access to services for people with common mental health disorders by:

  • supporting the integrated delivery of services across primary and secondary care

  • having clear and explicit criteria for entry to the service

  • focusing on entry and not exclusion criteria

  • having multiple means (including self-referral) to access the service

  • providing multiple points of access that facilitate links with the wider healthcare system and community in which the service is located.

1.1.1.2 Provide information about the services and interventions that constitute the local care pathway, including the:

  • range and nature of the interventions provided

  • settings in which services are delivered

  • processes by which a person moves through the pathway

  • means by which progress and outcomes are assessed

  • delivery of care in related health and social care services.

1.1.1.3 When providing information about local care pathways to people with common mental health disorders and their families and carers, all healthcare professionals should:

  • take into account the person's knowledge and understanding of mental health disorders and their treatment

  • ensure that such information is appropriate to the communities using the pathway.

1.1.1.4 Provide all information about services in a range of languages and formats (visual, verbal and aural) and ensure that it is available from a range of settings throughout the whole community to which the service is responsible.

1.1.1.5 Primary and secondary care clinicians, managers and commissioners should collaborate to develop local care pathways (see also section 1.5) that promote access to services for people with common mental health disorders from a range of socially excluded groups including:

  • black and minority ethnic groups

  • older people

  • those in prison or in contact with the criminal justice system

  • ex-service personnel.

1.1.1.6 Support access to services and increase the uptake of interventions by:

  • ensuring systems are in place to provide for the overall coordination and continuity of care of people with common mental health disorders

  • designating a healthcare professional to oversee the whole period of care (usually a GP in primary care settings).

1.1.1.7 Support access to services and increase the uptake of interventions by providing services for people with common mental health disorders in a variety of settings. Use an assessment of local needs as a basis for the structure and distribution of services, which should typically include delivery of:

  • assessment and interventions outside normal working hours

  • interventions in the person's home or other residential settings

  • specialist assessment and interventions in non-traditional community-based settings (for example, community centres and social centres) and where appropriate, in conjunction with staff from those settings

  • both generalist and specialist assessment and intervention services in primary care settings.

1.1.1.8 Primary and secondary care clinicians, managers and commissioners should consider a range of support services to facilitate access and uptake of services. These may include providing:

  • crèche facilities

  • assistance with travel

  • advocacy services.

1.1.1.9 Consider modifications to the method and mode of delivery of assessment and treatment interventions and outcome monitoring (based on an assessment of local needs), which may typically include using:

  • technology (for example, text messages, email, telephone and computers) for people who may find it difficult to, or choose not to, attend a specific service

  • bilingual therapists or independent translators.

1.1.1.10 Be respectful of, and sensitive to, diverse cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds when working with people with common mental health disorders, and be aware of the possible variations in the presentation of these conditions. Ensure competence in:

  • culturally sensitive assessment

  • using different explanatory models of common mental health disorders

  • addressing cultural and ethnic differences when developing and implementing treatment plans

  • working with families from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds[4].

1.1.1.11 Do not significantly vary the content and structure of assessments or interventions to address specific cultural or ethnic factors (beyond language and the cultural competence of staff), except as part of a formal evaluation of such modifications to an established intervention, as there is little evidence to support significant variations to the content and structure of assessments or interventions.

1.2 Stepped care

A stepped-care model (shown below) is used to organise the provision of services and to help people with common mental health disorders, their families, carers and healthcare professionals to choose the most effective interventions. The model presents an integrated overview of the key assessment and treatment interventions from this guideline. Recommendations focused solely on specialist mental health services are not included (these can be found in related guidance). Recommendation 1.5.1.3 sets out the components of a stepped-care model of service delivery, which should be included in the design of local care pathways for people with common mental health disorders.

Figure 1: Stepped-care model: a combined summary for common mental health disorders

Focus of the intervention

Nature of the intervention

Step 3: Persistent subthreshold depressive symptoms or mild to moderate depression that has not responded to a low-intensity intervention; initial presentation of moderate or severe depression; GAD with marked functional impairment or that has not responded to a low-intensity intervention; moderate to severe panic disorder; OCD with moderate or severe functional impairment; PTSD.

Depression: CBT, IPT, behavioural activation, behavioural couples therapy, counselling*, short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy*, antidepressants, combined interventions, collaborative care**, self-help groups.

GAD: CBT, applied relaxation, drug treatment, combined interventions, self-help groups.

Panic disorder: CBT, antidepressants, self-help groups.

OCD: CBT (including ERP), antidepressants, combined interventions and case management, self-help groups.

PTSD: Trauma-focused CBT, EMDR, drug treatment.

All disorders: Support groups, befriending, rehabilitation programmes, educational and employment support services; referral for further assessment and interventions.

Step 2: Persistent subthreshold depressive symptoms or mild to moderate depression; GAD; mild to moderate panic disorder; mild to moderate OCD; PTSD (including people with mild to moderate PTSD).

Depression: Individual facilitated self-help, computerised CBT, structured physical activity, group-based peer support (self-help) programmes**, non-directive counselling delivered at home†, antidepressants, self-help groups.

GAD and panic disorder: Individual non-facilitated and facilitated self-help, psychoeducational groups, self-help groups.

OCD: Individual or group CBT (including ERP), self-help groups.

PTSD: Trauma-focused CBT or EMDR.

All disorders: Support groups, educational and employment support services; referral for further assessment and interventions.

Step 1: All disorders – known and suspected presentations of common mental health disorders.

All disorders: Identification, assessment, psychoeducation, active monitoring; referral for further assessment and interventions.

* Discuss with the person the uncertainty of the effectiveness of counselling and psychodynamic psychotherapy in treating depression.

** For people with depression and a chronic physical health problem.

† For women during pregnancy or the postnatal period.

CBT, cognitive behavioural therapy; ERP, exposure and response prevention; EMDR, eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing; GAD, generalised anxiety disorder; OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder; IPT, interpersonal therapy; PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder.

1.3 Step 1: Identification and assessment

1.3.1 Identification

1.3.1.1 Be alert to possible depression (particularly in people with a past history of depression, possible somatic symptoms of depression or a chronic physical health problem with associated functional impairment) and consider asking people who may have depression two questions, specifically:

  • During the last month, have you often been bothered by feeling down, depressed or hopeless?

  • During the last month, have you often been bothered by having little interest or pleasure in doing things?

    If a person answers 'yes' to either of the above questions consider depression and follow the recommendations for assessment (see section 1.3.2).

1.3.1.2 Be alert to possible anxiety disorders (particularly in people with a past history of an anxiety disorder, possible somatic symptoms of an anxiety disorder or in those who have experienced a recent traumatic event). Consider asking the person about their feelings of anxiety and their ability to stop or control worry, using the 2-item Generalized Anxiety Disorder scale (GAD-2; see appendix D).

  • If the person scores three or more on the GAD-2 scale, consider an anxiety disorder and follow the recommendations for assessment (see section 1.3.2).

  • If the person scores less than three on the GAD-2 scale, but you are still concerned they may have an anxiety disorder, ask the following: 'Do you find yourself avoiding places or activities and does this cause you problems?'. If the person answers 'yes' to this question consider an anxiety disorder and follow the recommendations for assessment (see section 1.3.2).

1.3.1.3 For people with significant language or communication difficulties, for example people with sensory impairments or a learning disability, consider using the Distress Thermometer[5] and/or asking a family member or carer about the person's symptoms to identify a possible common mental health disorder. If a significant level of distress is identified, offer further assessment or seek the advice of a specialist[4].

1.3.2 Assessment

1.3.2.1 If the identification questions (see section 1.3.1) indicate a possible common mental health disorder, but the practitioner is not competent to perform a mental health assessment, refer the person to an appropriate healthcare professional. If this professional is not the person's GP, inform the GP of the referral[4].

1.3.2.2 If the identification questions (see section 1.3.1) indicate a possible common mental health disorder, a practitioner who is competent to perform a mental health assessment should review the person's mental state and associated functional, interpersonal and social difficulties[4].

1.3.2.3 When assessing a person with a suspected common mental health disorder, consider using:

  • a diagnostic or problem identification tool or algorithm, for example, the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) screening prompts tool[6]

  • a validated measure relevant to the disorder or problem being assessed, for example, the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) or the 7-item Generalized Anxiety Disorder scale (GAD-7) to inform the assessment and support the evaluation of any intervention.

1.3.2.4 All staff carrying out the assessment of suspected common mental health disorders should be competent to perform an assessment of the presenting problem in line with the service setting in which they work, and be able to:

  • determine the nature, duration and severity of the presenting disorder

  • take into account not only symptom severity but also the associated functional impairment

  • identify appropriate treatment and referral options in line with relevant NICE guidance.

1.3.2.5 All staff carrying out the assessment of common mental health disorders should be competent in:

  • relevant verbal and non-verbal communication skills, including the ability to elicit problems, the perception of the problem(s) and their impact, tailoring information, supporting participation in decision-making and discussing treatment options

  • the use of formal assessment measures and routine outcome measures in a variety of settings and environments.

1.3.2.6 In addition to assessing symptoms and associated functional impairment, consider how the following factors may have affected the development, course and severity of a person's presenting problem:

  • a history of any mental health disorder

  • a history of a chronic physical health problem

  • any past experience of, and response to, treatments

  • the quality of interpersonal relationships

  • living conditions and social isolation

  • a family history of mental illness

  • a history of domestic violence or sexual abuse

  • employment and immigration status.

    If appropriate, the impact of the presenting problem on the care of children and young people should also be assessed, and if necessary local safeguarding procedures followed[4].

1.3.2.7 When assessing a person with a suspected common mental health disorder, be aware of any learning disabilities or acquired cognitive impairments, and if necessary consider consulting with a relevant specialist when developing treatment plans and strategies[4].

1.3.2.8 If the presentation and history of a common mental health disorder suggest that it may be mild and self-limiting (that is, symptoms are improving) and the disorder is of recent onset, consider providing psychoeducation and active monitoring before offering or referring for further assessment or treatment. These approaches may improve less severe presentations and avoid the need for further interventions.

1.3.2.9 Always ask people with a common mental health disorder directly about suicidal ideation and intent. If there is a risk of self-harm or suicide:

  • assess whether the person has adequate social support and is aware of sources of help

  • arrange help appropriate to the level of risk (see section 1.3.3)

  • advise the person to seek further help if the situation deteriorates[4].

Antenatal and postnatal mental health

1.3.2.10 During pregnancy or the postnatal period, women requiring psychological interventions should be seen for treatment normally within 1 month of initial assessment, and no longer than 3 months afterwards. This is because of the lower threshold for access to psychological interventions during pregnancy and the postnatal period arising from the changing risk–benefit ratio for psychotropic medication at this time[7].

1.3.2.11 When considering drug treatments for common mental health disorders in women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning a pregnancy, consult 'Antenatal and postnatal mental health' (NICE clinical guideline 45) for advice on prescribing.

1.3.3 Risk assessment and monitoring

1.3.3.1 If a person with a common mental health disorder presents a high risk of suicide or potential harm to others, a risk of significant self-neglect, or severe functional impairment, assess and manage the immediate problem first and then refer to specialist services. Where appropriate inform families and carers.

1.3.3.2 If a person with a common mental health disorder presents considerable and immediate risk to themselves or others, refer them urgently to the emergency services or specialist mental health services[4].

1.3.3.3 If a person with a common mental health disorder, in particular depression, is assessed to be at risk of suicide:

  • take into account toxicity in overdose, if a drug is prescribed, and potential interaction with other prescribed medication; if necessary, limit the amount of drug(s) available

  • consider increasing the level of support, such as more frequent direct or telephone contacts

  • consider referral to specialist mental health services[7].

1.4 Steps 2 and 3: Treatment and referral for treatment

The recommendations for treatment and referral are also presented in table form organised by disorder in Appendix F.

1.4.1 Identifying the correct treatment options

1.4.1.1 When discussing treatment options with a person with a common mental health disorder, consider:

  • their past experience of the disorder

  • their experience of, and response to, previous treatment

  • the trajectory of symptoms

  • the diagnosis or problem specification, severity and duration of the problem

  • the extent of any associated functional impairment arising from the disorder itself or any chronic physical health problem

  • the presence of any social or personal factors that may have a role in the development or maintenance of the disorder

  • the presence of any comorbid disorders.

1.4.1.2 When discussing treatment options with a person with a common mental health disorder, provide information about:

  • the nature, content and duration of any proposed intervention

  • the acceptability and tolerability of any proposed intervention

  • possible interactions with any current interventions

  • the implications for the continuing provision of any current interventions.

1.4.1.3 When making a referral for the treatment of a common mental health disorder, take account of patient preference when choosing from a range of evidence-based treatments.

1.4.1.4 When offering treatment for a common mental health disorder or making a referral, follow the stepped-care approach, usually offering or referring for the least intrusive, most effective intervention first (see figure 1).

1.4.1.5 When a person presents with symptoms of anxiety and depression, assess the nature and extent of the symptoms, and if the person has:

  • depression that is accompanied by symptoms of anxiety, the first priority should usually be to treat the depressive disorder, in line with the NICE guideline on depression

  • an anxiety disorder and comorbid depression or depressive symptoms, consult the NICE guidelines for the relevant anxiety disorder and consider treating the anxiety disorder first

  • both anxiety and depressive symptoms, with no formal diagnosis, that are associated with functional impairment, discuss with the person the symptoms to treat first and the choice of intervention[4].

1.4.1.6 When a person presents with a common mental health disorder and harmful drinking or alcohol dependence, refer them for treatment of the alcohol misuse first as this may lead to significant improvement in depressive or anxiety symptoms[8].

1.4.1.7 When a person presents with a common mental health disorder and a mild learning disability or mild cognitive impairment:

  • where possible provide or refer for the same interventions as for other people with the same common mental health disorder

  • if providing interventions, adjust the method of delivery or duration of the assessment or intervention to take account of the disability or impairment[9].

1.4.1.8 When a person presents with a common mental health disorder and has a moderate to severe learning disability or a moderate to severe cognitive impairment, consult a specialist concerning appropriate referral and treatment options.

1.4.1.9 Do not routinely vary the treatment strategies and referral practice for common mental health disorders described in this guideline either by personal characteristics (for example, sex or ethnicity) or by depression subtype (for example, atypical depression or seasonal depression) as there is no convincing evidence to support such action[4].

1.4.1.10 If a person with a common mental health disorder needs social, educational or vocational support, consider:

  • informing them about self-help groups (but not for people with PTSD), support groups and other local and national resources

  • befriending or a rehabilitation programme for people with long-standing moderate or severe disorders

  • educational and employment support services[10].

1.4.2 Step 2: Treatment and referral advice for subthreshold symptoms and mild to moderate common mental health disorders

1.4.2.1 For people with persistent subthreshold depressive symptoms or mild to moderate depression, offer or refer for one or more of the following low-intensity interventions:

  • individual facilitated self-help based on the principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

  • computerised CBT

  • a structured group physical activity programme

  • a group-based peer support (self-help) programme (for those who also have a chronic physical health problem)

  • non-directive counselling delivered at home (listening visits) (for women during pregnancy or the postnatal period)[11].

1.4.2.2 For pregnant women who have subthreshold symptoms of depression and/or anxiety that significantly interfere with personal and social functioning, consider providing or referring for:

  • individual brief psychological treatment (four to six sessions), such as interpersonal therapy (IPT) or CBT for women who have had a previous episode of depression or anxiety

  • social support during pregnancy and the postnatal period for women who have not had a previous episode of depression or anxiety; such support may consist of regular informal individual or group-based support[4].

1.4.2.3 Do not offer antidepressants routinely for people with persistent subthreshold depressive symptoms or mild depression, but consider them for, or refer for an assessment, people with:

  • initial presentation of subthreshold depressive symptoms that have been present for a long period (typically at least 2 years) or

  • subthreshold depressive symptoms or mild depression that persist(s) after other interventions or

  • a past history of moderate or severe depression or

  • mild depression that complicates the care of a physical health problem[12].

1.4.2.4 For people with generalised anxiety disorder that has not improved after psychoeducation and active monitoring, offer or refer for one of the following low-intensity interventions:

  • individual non-facilitated self-help

  • individual facilitated self-help

  • psychoeducational groups[9].

1.4.2.5 For people with mild to moderate panic disorder, offer or refer for one of the following low-intensity interventions:

  • individual non-facilitated self-help

  • individual facilitated self-help.

1.4.2.6 For people with mild to moderate OCD:

  • offer or refer for individual CBT including exposure and response prevention (ERP) of limited duration (typically up to 10 hours), which could be provided using self-help materials or by telephone or

  • refer for group CBT (including ERP) (note, group formats may deliver more than 10 hours of therapy)[13].

1.4.2.7 For people with PTSD, including those with mild to moderate PTSD, refer for a formal psychological intervention (trauma-focused CBT or eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing [EMDR])[10].

1.4.3 Step 3: Treatment and referral advice for persistent subthreshold depressive symptoms or mild to moderate common mental health disorders with inadequate response to initial interventions, or moderate to severe common mental health disorders

If there has been an inadequate response following the delivery of a first-line treatment for persistent subthreshold depressive symptoms or mild to moderate common mental health disorders, a range of psychological, pharmacological or combined interventions may be considered. This section also recommends interventions or provides referral advice for first presentation of moderate to severe common mental health disorders.

1.4.3.1 For people with persistent subthreshold depressive symptoms or mild to moderate depression that has not responded to a low-intensity intervention, offer or refer for:

  • antidepressant medication or

  • a psychological intervention (CBT, IPT, behavioural activation or behavioural couples therapy)[4].

1.4.3.2 For people with an initial presentation of moderate or severe depression, offer or refer for a psychological intervention (CBT or IPT) in combination with an antidepressant[4].

1.4.3.3 For people with moderate to severe depression and a chronic physical health problem consider referral to collaborative care if there has been no, or only a limited, response to psychological or drug treatment alone or combined in the current or in a past episode[4].

1.4.3.4 For people with depression who decline an antidepressant, CBT, IPT, behavioural activation and behavioural couples therapy, consider providing or referring for:

  • counselling for people with persistent subthreshold depressive symptoms or mild to moderate depression

  • short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy for people with mild to moderate depression.

Discuss with the person the uncertainty of the effectiveness of counselling and psychodynamic psychotherapy in treating depression[4].

1.4.3.5 For people with generalised anxiety disorder who have marked functional impairment or have not responded to a low-intensity intervention, offer or refer for one of the following:

  • CBT or

  • applied relaxation or

  • if the person prefers, drug treatment[9].

1.4.3.6 For people with moderate to severe panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia), consider referral for:

  • CBT or

  • an antidepressant if the disorder is long-standing or the person has not benefitted from or has declined psychological interventions[9].

1.4.3.7 For people with OCD and moderate or severe functional impairment, and in particular where there is significant comorbidity with other common mental health disorders, offer or refer for:

  • CBT (including ERP) or antidepressant medication for moderate impairment

  • CBT (including ERP) combined with antidepressant medication and case management for severe impairment.

Offer home-based treatment where the person is unable or reluctant to attend a clinic or has specific problems (for example, hoarding)[13].

1.4.3.8 For people with long-standing OCD or with symptoms that are severely disabling and restrict their life, consider referral to a specialist mental health service[13].

1.4.3.9 For people with OCD who have not benefitted from two courses of CBT (including ERP) combined with antidepressant medication, refer to a service with specialist expertise in OCD[13].

1.4.3.10 For people with PTSD, offer or refer for a psychological intervention (trauma-focused CBT or EMDR). Do not delay the intervention or referral, particularly for people with severe and escalating symptoms in the first month after the traumatic event10.

1.4.3.11 For people with PTSD, offer or refer for drug treatment only if a person declines an offer of a psychological intervention or expresses a preference for drug treatment[10].

1.4.4 Treatment and referral advice to help prevent relapse

1.4.4.1 For people with a common mental health disorder who are at significant risk of relapse or have a history of recurrent problems, discuss with the person the treatments that might reduce the risk of recurrence. The choice of treatment or referral for treatment should be informed by the response to previous treatment, including residual symptoms, the consequences of relapse, any discontinuation symptoms when stopping medication, and the person's preference.

1.4.4.2 For people with a previous history of depression who are currently well and who are considered at risk of relapse despite taking antidepressant medication, or those who are unable to continue or choose not to continue antidepressant medication, offer or refer for one of the following:

  • individual CBT

  • mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (for those who have had three or more episodes)[12].

1.4.4.3 For people who have had previous treatment for depression but continue to have residual depressive symptoms, offer or refer for one of the following:

  • individual CBT

  • mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (for those who have had three or more episodes)[4].

1.5 Developing local care pathways

1.5.1.1 Local care pathways should be developed to promote implementation of key principles of good care. Pathways should be:

  • negotiable, workable and understandable for people with common mental health disorders, their families and carers, and professionals

  • accessible and acceptable to all people in need of the services served by the pathway

  • responsive to the needs of people with common mental health disorders and their families and carers

  • integrated so that there are no barriers to movement between different levels of the pathway

  • outcomes focused (including measures of quality, service-user experience and harm).

1.5.1.2 Responsibility for the development, management and evaluation of local care pathways should lie with a designated leadership team, which should include primary and secondary care clinicians, managers and commissioners. The leadership team should have particular responsibility for:

  • developing clear policy and protocols for the operation of the pathway

  • providing training and support on the operation of the pathway

  • auditing and reviewing the performance of the pathway.

1.5.1.3 Primary and secondary care clinicians, managers and commissioners should work together to design local care pathways that promote a stepped-care model of service delivery that:

  • provides the least intrusive, most effective intervention first

  • has clear and explicit criteria for the thresholds determining access to and movement between the different levels of the pathway

  • does not use single criteria such as symptom severity to determine movement between steps

  • monitors progress and outcomes to ensure the most effective interventions are delivered and the person moves to a higher step if needed.

1.5.1.4 Primary and secondary care clinicians, managers and commissioners should work together to design local care pathways that promote a range of evidence-based interventions at each step in the pathway and support people with common mental health disorders in their choice of interventions.

1.5.1.5 All staff should ensure effective engagement with families and carers, where appropriate, to:

  • inform and improve the care of the person with a common mental health disorder

  • meet the identified needs of the families and carers.

1.5.1.6 Primary and secondary care clinicians, managers and commissioners should work together to design local care pathways that promote the active engagement of all populations served by the pathway. Pathways should:

  • offer prompt assessments and interventions that are appropriately adapted to the cultural, gender, age and communication needs of people with common mental health disorders

  • keep to a minimum the number of assessments needed to access interventions.

1.5.1.7 Primary and secondary care clinicians, managers and commissioners should work together to design local care pathways that respond promptly and effectively to the changing needs of all populations served by the pathways. Pathways should have in place:

  • clear and agreed goals for the services offered to a person with a common mental health disorder

  • robust and effective means for measuring and evaluating the outcomes associated with the agreed goals

  • clear and agreed mechanisms for responding promptly to identified changes to the person's needs.

1.5.1.8 Primary and secondary care clinicians, managers and commissioners should work together to design local care pathways that provide an integrated programme of care across both primary and secondary care services. Pathways should:

  • minimise the need for transition between different services or providers

  • allow services to be built around the pathway and not the pathway around the services

  • establish clear links (including access and entry points) to other care pathways (including those for physical healthcare needs)

  • have designated staff who are responsible for the coordination of people's engagement with the pathway.

1.5.1.9 Primary and secondary care clinicians, managers and commissioners should work together to ensure effective communication about the functioning of the local care pathway. There should be protocols for:

  • sharing and communicating information with people with common mental health disorders, and where appropriate families and carers, about their care

  • sharing and communicating information about the care of service users with other professionals (including GPs)

  • communicating information between the services provided within the pathway

  • communicating information to services outside the pathway.

1.5.1.10 Primary and secondary care clinicians, managers and commissioners should work together to design local care pathways that have robust systems for outcome measurement in place, which should be used to inform all involved in a pathway about its effectiveness. This should include providing:

  • individual routine outcome measurement systems

  • effective electronic systems for the routine reporting and aggregation of outcome measures

  • effective systems for the audit and review of the overall clinical and cost-effectiveness of the pathway.



[4] Adapted from 'Depression' (NICE clinical guideline 90).

[5] The Distress Thermometer is a single-item question screen that will identify distress coming from any source. The person places a mark on the scale answering: 'How distressed have you been during the past week on a scale of 0 to 10?' Scores of 4 or more indicate a significant level of distress that should be investigated further. (Roth AJ, Kornblith, Batel-Copel L, et al. (1998) Rapid screening for psychologic distress in men with prostate carcinoma: a pilot study. Cancer 82: 1904–8.)

[7] Adapted from 'Antenatal and postnatal mental health' (NICE clinical guideline 45).

[8] Adapted from 'Alcohol-use disorders: diagnosis, assessment and management of harmful drinking and alcohol dependence' (NICE clinical guideline 115).

[9] Adapted from 'Generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia) in adults' (NICE clinical guideline 113).

[10] Adapted from 'Post-traumatic stress disorder' (NICE clinical guideline 26).

[11] Adapted from 'Depression' (NICE clinical guideline 90), 'Depression and chronic physical health problems' (NICE clinical guideline 91) and 'Antenatal and postnatal mental health' (NICE clinical guideline 45).

[12] Adapted from 'Depression' (NICE clinical guideline 90) and 'Depression and chronic physical health problems' (NICE clinical guideline 91).

[13] Adapted from 'Obsessive-compulsive disorder' (NICE clinical guideline 31).

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)