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Measuring change resulting from healthcare interventions is critical to evaluating their usefulness. The choice of outcome measure is an important part of such evaluations and is driven by assumptions about what is likely to change and how best to capture this. Despite its importance, forensic mental health has paid little attention to determining which are the best measures of outcome. This study used a panel of relevant professionals to (i) assess the relative importance of different areas of potential outcome measurement and (ii) evaluate specific instruments used currently as outcome measures in forensic mental health research. Although a wide range of potential outcomes were endorsed as appropriate, few corresponding instruments have been used consistently. Only three psychiatric instruments deemed by our panel as feasible, relevant and psychometrically adequate have been used in five or more studies (the Beck Depression Inventory; the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale, and the Symptom Checklist-90-Revised). Significant measurement gaps were noted in areas such as social and emotional functioning. Although instruments exist that could capture most areas, none were sufficiently developed for routine use as outcomes. Further research to develop robust, sensitive and diverse outcome measures is needed. This is an essential precursor to extending the evidence base for forensic mental health interventions. © 2011 Taylor & Francis.

Original publication




Journal article


Psychology, Crime and Law

Publication Date





277 - 292