Objectives: We sought to examine potential barriers to the use of evidence-based guidelines for youth depression in a tertiary specialist mental health service, as part of an initiative to implement evidence based practice within the service.
Methods: This was a qualitative study adopting a social constructionist perspective using focus groups. The focus groups, conducted with all clinicians (medical and allied health), were audiotaped, transcribed and thematic analysis was undertaken. Clinicians were asked about the barriers to implementing four key recommendations from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines.
Results: Barriers existed at (i) the individual clinician level; (ii) the clinical level in terms of the presentation of young people; and (iii) the service level. The key individual clinician level barrier was a stated belief that the guidelines were not relevant to the young people presenting to the service, with little evidence to guide practice. Related, the main barrier with regard to the clinical presentation was the severity and complexity of this presentation, often making the delivery of interventions like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) difficult. At the service level, a lack of integration with primary and secondary level care meant sequencing interventions according to guideline recommendations was difficult.
Conclusions: There is a clear imperative to develop the evidence base to ensure that effective treatments for young people aged up to 25 years with severe and complex disorders that include comorbid conditions, suicide risk and psychosocial difficulties are investigated and disseminated. Furthermore, this work has highlighted the need for greater investment in models of care that ensure integration between existing primary and secondary care and enhanced specialist early intervention mental health services for young people.