Meeting the need

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What makes a ‘good’ JSNA for mental health?

Andy Bell

21 November 2016

Understanding the mental health needs of a community is a vital first step towards improving wellbeing and life chances. In Meeting the need: what makes a 'good' JSNA for mental health or dementia?, Andy Bell explores how five local councils across England went about understanding the mental health needs of their communities, and taking action to meet them more effectively.

Meeting the Need, funded by Public Health England and produced in support of the National Mental Health, Dementia and Neurology Intelligence Network, analyses how these councils carried out their Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNAs) to achieve real changes in their communities.

The report finds that JSNAs for mental health and dementia can help to direct investment, improve services and help local agencies work together more effectively. To have the biggest impact, they need a clear purpose, effective leadership and advocacy, and partnerships that continue after the JSNA is completed to ensure that they lead to action.

Report author Andy Bell highlights eight key success factors behind the creation of an effective and impactful needs assessment:

  • Leadership: A ‘championing’ form of leadership to ensure that adequate resources (and expertise and time) are put into assessing mental health needs.
  • Purpose: An actual or perceived need for the JSNA to address a priority.
  • Engagement: Collaborative production with partners inside and outside the local authority.
  • National policy: Policy directives from national bodies having an impact on local decisions
  • Research evidence and data: Using local data and a variety of other sources to gain an accurate picture of the gaps between local need and current provision
  • Voices of experience: Ensuring that people with lived experience of mental health/dementia contribute to the understanding of local need.
  • Presentation: Ensuring that they tell a compelling story and are written in plain English.
  • Follow up: JSNAs being flexible enough to allow for updating as new data emerges.

Key messages for local and national bodies

National bodies could support local areas to assess their mental health needs in the following ways:

  1. Communicating clearly what data is available
  2. Encouraging data sharing so that JSNAs can understand current provision and the journeys people take through services
  3. Producing JSNA guidance that recognises reduced local resources and puts the onus on national bodies to take a ‘do once and share’ approach with data
  4. Exploring ways in which local JSNAs can inform national policymaking on mental health and dementia.

For local authorities:

  1. JSNAs generally make most difference when there is a specific needs assessment for a particular issue
  2. Local areas should know about and make use of nationally available data
  3. There is clear benefit in including the perspective of people with lived experience of mental health and dementia in needs assessments.
  4. The support of a senior local authority official, elected member or senior member of the CCG can make a difference
  5. Needs assessments (and strategies where relevant) should be produced in collaboration with a range of local statutory and voluntary sector partners
  6. Implementation of interventions or strategies on the basis of a JSNA should be reviewed routinely to measure success.

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