Introduction Clinical assessment is an essential but potentially time-consuming component of mental healthcare provision. The Threshold Assessment Grid (TAG) is a brief structured assessment tool which is applied to written referrals with the aim of identifying the severity of mental illness and suitability for further psychological treatment by assessing perceived risk, safety concerns and clinical factors.
Method The TAG criteria were used to structure a brief TAG-triage face-to-face assessment. As the use of triage has not been evaluated within a military occupational mental health service, differences in clinical and occupational outcomes were compared following either standard face-to-face assessment or receipt of TAG-triage interview among members of the UK Armed Forces who were referred for mental health assessment. During a period of service development, 56.6% of patients referred to a military mental health team received TAG-triage assessment (n=419) and 43.5% were assessed as usual (n=323).
Results There were no significant differences in rank, age, sex and Service background between patients allocated to the two forms of assessment. Patients presenting following acts of deliberate self-harm were as likely to receive TAG-triage as they were to undergo standard assessment, suggesting that clinicians were willing to use TAG-triage for more challenging cases. Patients receiving TAG-triage were as likely to receive further therapy and be allocated a clinical diagnosis as those undergoing standard assessment. Short-term and longer-term occupational outcomes following discharge from care, represented by medical fitness to carry out one's military role, were similar among the TAG-triage and standard assessment groups.
Conclusion TAG-triage appeared to offer a viable alternative to standard face-to-face mental health assessment and could promote more efficient use of clinical time.
- MENTAL HEALTH