The guidance, issued by the RCGP and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, has called for GPs to speed up their diagnosis of psychosis in the light of growing evidence that supports early symptom recognition.
Eighty per cent of cases of psychosis start between the ages of 16-30. Within this age group there is a 10 per cent chance lifetime risk of suicide and a 12 per cent chance that sufferers will end up unemployed.
But early intervention has been shown to halve the risk of suicide and double the chances of finding employment.
Consequently, the guidance states that early diagnosis of psychosis is akin to the early presentation of cancer.
The guidance recommends that GPs should look for early symptoms of psychosis such as poor sleep, social withdrawal and early psychotic thinking.
GPs are warned not to simply dismiss the symptoms as adolescence, but be prepared to keep a watching brief.
Once the presence of psychotic symptoms has been established, GPs should refer patients to specialists for assessment of potential psychosis.
Tyneside GP Dr Dave Tomson, who has an interest in mental health and is from North Shields, dismissed fears that achieving earlier diagnosis of psychosis in young children would increase the workload in an area in which GPs were already struggling.
GPs in England scored 60 per cent of available quality points for the management of patients with schizophrenia or other psychoses, according to quality figures for 2006/7.
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