September 08, 2005

More Support Needed For GP's Diagnosing

Researchers in Switzerland decided to study the issues that general practitioners face when they have a patient with schizophrenia or who is suspected of having schizophrenia. The issues looked at were diagnostic knowledge, up-to-date treatment practices, amount of patients, and the treatment given.

A survey was issued to general practitioners in Switzerland and was answered by 1,089 (18%) of those given a survey. Doctors reported seeing an average of 3.2 clients with schizophrenia, and 1.6 who they thought might be in the early phase of schizophrenia.

"The majority (66%) of physicians expressed satisfaction concerning collaboration with specialists, with 67% expressing a wish for specialized low-threshold referral services. Only 37% of doctors preferred more education, and 16% would like a specialized mobile outreach team. The diagnostic knowledge of the physicians was inconsistent. While 90% of respondents agreed that early warning signs precede a first episode of schizophrenia, sustained functional deterioration was regularly under-identified" (

They usually looked for the more obvious symptoms of schizophrenia like hallucinations/ delusions, rather than the more discrete symptoms such as cognitive impairment. Of the GP's 58% recommended atypical antipsychotics for those with early episodes of schizophrenia. Only about 1/3 referred patients with schizophrenia to maintenance therapy.

The researchers of this study recommend that the education required for general practioners may cover the discrete symptoms of schizophrenia that are not as easily identifiable. They also stated that having GP's be uneducated as to the correct treatment for those with schizophrenia could lead to higher relapse rates for the patient being seen.

Original Source: More support needed for physicians diagnosing and treating schizophrenia. September 8, 2005.

This research study was published in Br J Psychiatry 2005; 187: 274–281.


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