Background: International agreement dictates that clients must be help-seeking before any assessment or intervention can be implemented by an 'at-risk service'. Little is known about individuals who decline input. This study aimed to define the size of the unengaged population of an 'at-risk service', to compare this group to those who did engage in terms of sociodemographic and clinical features and to assess the clinical outcomes of those who did not engage with the service.
Method: Groups were compared using data collected routinely as part of the service's clinical protocol. Data on service use and psychopathology since referral to Outreach and Support in South London (OASIS) were collected indirectly from clients' general practitioners (GPs) and by screening electronic patient notes held by the local Mental Health Trust.
Results: Over one-fifth (n=91, 21.2%) of those referred did not attend or engage with the service. Approximately half of this group subsequently received a diagnosis of mental illness. A diagnosis of psychosis was given to 22.6%. Nearly 70% presented to other mental health services. There were no demographic differences, except that those who engaged with the service were more likely to be employed.
Conclusions: Over one-fifth of those referred to services for people at high risk of psychosis do not attend or engage. However, many of this group require mental health care, and a substantial proportion has, or will later develop, psychosis. A more assertive approach to assessing individuals who are at high risk of psychosis but fail to engage may be indicated.