Cookie policy notice

By continuing to use this site you agree to our cookies policy below:
Since 26 May 2011, the law now states that cookies on websites can ony be used with your specific consent. Cookies allow us to ensure that you enjoy the best browsing experience.

This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Schizophrenia referrals could overload system

The GPC has warned that urgently referring patients with suspected schizophrenia could swamp secondary care services.

The warning comes following guidance on schizophrenia from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, released at its annual conference in Birmingham last week, that will set GPs up for a key role in managing patients with the illness.

The guidance said GPs would have to refer patients with suspected schizophrenia urgently to secondary mental health services. GPs may also have to prescribe atypical antipsychotic drugs before the patient has been seen by a psychiatrist if symptoms are acute.

The guidance added GPs would have to monitor the physical health of schizophrenics and arrange regular check-ups, ideally every six to 12 months.

But the GPC said urgent referrals would 'clog up the system' and warned of the

potential for inappropriate prescribing.

Dr George Rae, a member of the GPC prescribing sub-committee, said: 'If everybody goes by the guidelines, there would be an increase in the acute demand within the secondary sector.'

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, another member, said: 'It is quite unacceptable to expect GPs to diagnose and initiate treatment because of delays in access to a psychiatric opinion. Diagnosis and treatment requires specialist expertise.'

Members of the guideline development group said GPs should ensure patients with suspected schizophrenia are ideally seen within 48 hours, but they admitted access to secondary care services was 'pretty variable'.

Professor Irwin Nazareth, professor of primary care and population studies at the Royal Free and University College London and a GP on the guideline development group, said GPs would find it difficult to implement the guidelines because of the lack of time and resources.

Would you be happy

to start a patient on antipsychotics?

E-mail your views to

Rate this article 

Click to rate

  • 1 star out of 5
  • 2 stars out of 5
  • 3 stars out of 5
  • 4 stars out of 5
  • 5 stars out of 5

0 out of 5 stars

Have your say