Everyone involved in the commissioning, planning and prioritisation of health care requires accurate and comprehensive information to answer a number of crucial questions on each major disease or health service specialty.

These questions, for an average primary care trust area, are:

  • With what population or patients (how many and how severely ill) are we concerned?
  • What services on average are currently provided?
  • What is the evidence of the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of these services?
  • What is the optimum configuration of services?

In other words: What is the need and how can it be best met?

The questions are answered in part by epidemiological literature and in part by the products of the evidence-based health care movement. The Health Care Needs Assessment series combines these and offers a perspective across an entire disease, service area or specialty.

The Health Care Needs Assessment series, funded by the Department of Health/National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), was compiled and managed in the Unit of Public Health, Epidemiology & Biostatistics at the University of Birmingham.