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New study will help GPs recognise the early stages of psychosis

10 October 2018

GPs need to be able to recognise the early stages of a psychotic illness and quickly refer to specialist mental health services for treatment.

Psychotic disorders are severe mental disorders that cause abnormal thinking and perceptions. People with psychoses lose touch with reality. Two of the main symptoms are delusions and hallucinations.

Many GPs find spotting the early signs of psychosis difficult because they don’t see many patients with this problem, which limits their ability to build up their diagnostic skills.

Researchers at the Centres for Academic Mental Health and Academic Primary Care at the University of Bristol are developing a tool to help GPs recognise the early signs of psychosis using primary care consultation data. These can include depression, mania, anxiety, ADHD, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), smoking, cannabis, suicidal ideation, bizarre behaviour, blunted affect (feeling), social isolation, role functioning problems, sleep disturbance, age, sex and consultation frequency.

The National Institute for Health Research School for Primary Care Research (NIHR SPCR) funded study, Improving the Accuracy of Psychosis Prediction (MAPPED), will provide a risk score for patients which is drawn from their primary care consultation history. When a score threshold is reached or exceeded the GP will receive a computer-generated recommendation for a referral to mental health services for an assessment.

The study lead, Dr Sarah Sullivan, said: “We want to help GPs identify patients at risk of developing psychosis, so that they know who to refer on to mental health services. Being able to identify patients who need specialist treatment early on should help improve their outcomes. There should also be cost savings to the NHS, as GPs will be able to refer patients to secondary care who can most benefit from their help sooner, reducing visits to primary and emergency care.”

Further information

For more information about MAPPED, contact

About the Centre for Academic Primary Care

The Centre for Academic Primary Care (CAPC) at the University of Bristol is a leading centre for primary care research in the UK, one of nine forming the NIHR School for Primary Care Research. It sits within Bristol Medical School, an internationally recognised centre of excellence for population health research and teaching. Follow us on Twitter: @capcbristol.

About the Centre for Academic Mental Health

The Centre for Academic Mental Health conducts research within a number of themes related to mental health. We provide research training opportunities in these areas, and in partnership with our NHS colleagues, we provide undergraduate teaching in psychiatry. The Centre sits within Bristol Medical School at the University of Bristol.

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