A controlled trial of general practitioners' attitudes to patients with schizophrenia

Health Bull (Edinb). 1996 May;54(3):201-3.


Objective: To examine general practitioners' attitudes to patients with schizophrenia.

Design: A random sample of primary care physicians were alternately sent a case vignette of a patient with or without schizophrenia, in an otherwise identical clinical abstract, and asked to indicate their level of agreement with fifteen statements based on it.

Subjects and setting: A one-in-five sample of general practitioners who were identified from the Primary Care Services Register of Lothian Health Board.

Results: The median score for each statement was compared by the two-tailed Wilcoxon rank sum test. Doctors responding to the vignette of the patient with schizophrenia were significantly less willing to have the patient on their practice list, more likely to refer them to a specialist and more likely to think that they would be violent; whereas they did not think that they would take up any more time than the other patient. These impressions were no different between those who had or had not received work training in psychiatry.

Conclusions: This controlled trial of primary care physicians' attitudes towards patients with schizophrenia amounts to an empirical demonstration of medical discrimination against the sufferers of this and potentially of other long term psychiatric disorders. Psychiatrists and general practitioners should share care in the management of schizophrenia and try to overcome the prejudices against such patients in an attempt to improve their overall clinical care.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Humans
  • Physicians, Family*
  • Schizophrenia*
  • Scotland
  • Statistics, Nonparametric