Risk Assessment in Mental Health: Introducing a Traffic Light System in a Community Mental Health Team

S. Crouche, Graham R. Williamson*
Plymouth University School of Nursing and Midwifery, Drake Circus, Plymouth, Devon, PL4 8AA, UK

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Creative Commons License
© Croucher and Williamson; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Plymouth University School of Nursing and Midwifery, Drake Circus, Plymouth, Devon, PL4 8AA, UK; E-mail:



To reports a study in which action research approach was utilised to introduce a new system of risk assessment, based on traffic lights, into a community mental health team.


Risk management is a serious concern in community mental healthcare where there is less direct, real-time supervision of clients than in other settings, and because inadequate management of risk can have fatal consequences when service users are a risk to themselves and/or others.


An action research design was undertaken, using three phases of Look, Think and Act.


Data were collected between January and March of 2012. In the action research phases, qualitative data were collected in focus groups with the team’s multi-disciplinary mental health professionals. Data were transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically, which involved agreement of themes and interpretations by two researchers. The Look, Think and Act phases guided the development of the project; team members worked collaboratively on the traffic light system, implemented and evaluated it.


Themes were constructed that were discussed across the focus groups. These themes were: Ease of use; Risk identification and management; Legal status; Different teams’ views of risk; Post-implementation evaluation.


Action research has been used to implement change in mental health risk management. Others internationally would benefit from considering a Traffic Light System, and in using action research to implement it.

Keywords: Risk management, risk assessment, community mental health, action research, traffic light system, qualitative research, focus groups.