The International Study on General Practitioners and Early Psychosis (IGPS)

Andor E. Simon, Helen Lester, Lynda Tait, Emanuel Stip, Paul Roy, Gretchen Conrad, Jennifer Hunt, Irvin Epstein, Tor K. Larsen, Paul Amminger, David Holub, Barbora Wenigová, Mark Turner, Gregor E. Berger, Colin O'Donnell, Daniel Umbricht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Background: In much of the world, general practitioners (GPs) are the health professionals most frequently initially contacted when a young person is developing psychosis. However little is known about their expertise in assessing psychosis and its risk. Methods: To assess the diagnostic patterns and treatment practices related to psychosis of GPs working in a range of health care systems, questionnaires were mailed to 12,516 randomly selected GPs in seven countries: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, England, Norway, Austria and the Czech Republic. Sites were defined as gatekeeping or non-gatekeeping, based on the primary care health system in effect at each site. A gatekeeping system (GK) is one which mandates that patients see a GP before in order to be referred to a specialist. By contrast, in a non-gatekeeping (nGK) system, individuals can seek help directly from specialists without authorization by a GP. Results: Twenty-two percent (n = 2784) GPs responded to the mailed questionnaire. They reported low prevalence of early psychosis seen in general practice. Using awareness of functional decline as a prognostic sign as a proxy, gatekeeping (GK) GPs were found to be superior in their knowledge of the signs and symptoms of early psychosis than were non-gatekeeping GPs. GP's with less knowledge as to early psychosis were more likely to refer individuals with suspected psychosis to specialists. GP's reported a preference for access to specialized outpatient services as compared with obtaining continuous medical education relevant to early psychosis. The duration of maintenance treatment recommended by GP's was less than that recommended in international guidelines. GP's also underestimated the risk for relapse after a first episode of psychosis. Conclusions: As GPs were largely unaware of features of early psychosis, such as functional decline, this should be the target of educational programs for GP's. However, the incidence of psychosis is low and GP's express a preference for access to appropriate referral over continuing medical education. Therefore, the development of specializ ed services for the assessment and care of patients who are in the early stages of developing schizophrenia may be warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-190
Number of pages9
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Early psychosis
  • General practitioners
  • Primary care
  • Schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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