Service Needs Assessment

There is substantial overlap between what is meant by:

  • Service needs assessment
  • Service development
  • Service planning.

While both service development and service planning may be required outside a formal service planning process, service needs assessment is a component of, and a prerequisite for, both service development and service planning.

Service development is a component of service planning. However, a service development process may be undertaken with narrower objectives than a comprehensive service plan. For example, to make more efficient use of current resources or to maximise the effectiveness of additional or new resources within a service area.

A useful way of thinking about and documenting a service needs assessment (and the initial stages of service development and service planning is in terms of:

  • Needs and/or demands of the population
  • Capacity and/or supply of the service

A service needs assessment involves assessing:

  • The current and projected needs and demands of the population
  • The capacity of a service to meet those needs, now and in the future (assuming the status quo)
  • The mismatch (i.e. gaps) between needs/ demands and capacity/ supply

Need is expressed in many different ways and it is important to consider information from a range of sources, in addition to demand analysis and projections, including:

  • Consultations with relevant stakeholders
  • Critical assessments of published evidence related to population-based need as well as clinical effectiveness studies and health economic evaluations

The results of this service needs assessment, service development, and service planning processes are taken further by:

  • Considering the options, and identifying and prioritising the strategies, for matching capacity/supply to needs/demands.
  • Outlining the processes for and desired outcomes of change, including goals, objectives, strategies, timeframes, implementation and/ or performance indicators, and responsibilities (i.e. why, what, when, who, where, how).