Background – People with functional impairments have unmet needs and they are not given the support and service they are entitled to. According to international studies, early measures and treatment may slow down the outbreak of mental illness and relieve its course.
Aims - To elucidate and compare both somatic poor health and social needs of people with either physical or mental functional impairments in a rural district, and to explore and compare how different personnel in the primary health care service and psychiatric services are able to detect early signs of psychosis. Moreover, to find out how early signs of psychosis are detected in primary health services, and to explore the patients’ pathways to the GPs.
Methods – In studies I and II, people with severe functional impairments were offered a screening health examination followed by an interview. Three vignettes were presented to personnel in the primary health care service and the psychiatric services in study III. The participants were asked to detect any signs and symptoms of psychosis in the vignettes. In studies IV and V, notes in primary health care records were studied during a period of two years and six months, respectively, before a diagnosis of psychosis was made by the general psychiatric services.
Results – People with severe functional impairments had poorer health and more problems with their ADL (Activities of Daily Life), economy/work and Quality of Life than people in general. Among the groups studied, people with mental impairments had the poorest living conditions. There were no differences between the participants in study III regarding sex, age and occupation; and the participants detected the signs and symptoms in the vignettes to a high degree (75% of all signs and symptoms). In all, 152 patients (22 with schizophrenia/ schizoaffective disorders, 41 with schizophrenia preceded by other psychotic disorders and 89 with persisting psychiatric disorders) with the diagnosis of psychosis made by the general psychiatric services were included in study IV and V. There were notes in 77% of the primary health records during the two-year study period, and 70% of these notes were about psychiatric signs and symptoms, which means that the GPs detected signs and symptoms of psychosis in 2/3 of the cases. The analysis of the patients’ visiting patterns to GPs showed that many patients did not visit their “own” primary health care centre or their “own” GP. Furthermore, many patients had no contact with the primary health care service at all, and the subgroup with schizophrenia/schizoaffective disorders visited the primary health care service less frequently than the other groups.
Main conclusion – People with severe functional impairments must be granted regular contacts with a GP, whose role must be: to identify and motivate the patients; to detect when there are needs for care and social needs; to function as a representative for the patients; to inform the patients about their rights and to guide them to other social or health authorities. The GPs detected early signs and symptoms of an emerging psychosis to a high degree, which would make early intervention possible. The more visits to the GPs, the more symptoms were detected, and out of all signs and symptoms with psychiatric content noted, the GPs would have suspected an emerging psychosis in almost every second patient who visited them. To detect early signs and symptoms of psychosis is difficult, and whenever in doubt, primary health care personnel must be able to consult psychiatric professionals. Otherwise we may miss the opportunity to intervene in an early phase of the illness. Additional training could also mean better understanding and earlier detection of people at risk of an emerging psychosis.
2004. , 72 p.
functional impairments, early signs of psychosis, visiting patterns, primary health care, psychiatric services