Background. Carers' satisfaction with psychiatric services related to information and advice is generally poor. This may be particularly true for services trying to meet the needs of ethnically diverse communities. It is important that services attempt to ameliorate carers' concerns as early as possible. The authors aimed to assess the impact of a brief educational and advice support service on carers of patients with a first episode of psychotic illness.
Method. Carers of all patients identified with a first episode of psychosis in a defined psychiatric catchment area of North London were invited to participate. Following consent from patients and relatives, relatives were randomly allocated to receive (in addition to usual services) a brief intervention comprising education and advice about the disorder from a support team or to usual care from community psychiatric services.
Results. One hundred and six carers were recruited to the study. Take-up of the intervention was less than expected and the intervention had little impact. The authors found no differences over time between the randomized arms for relatives' satisfaction (F=2·3, p=0·14, df=1) or number of days spent by patients in hospital over nine months from entry to the trial (F=1·7, p=0·18, df=1).
Conclusions. It was found that the support and advice intervention for families had little impact on their satisfaction or on patients' outcomes. However, failure to take up the intervention threatens the conclusions as the power to show an effect was reduced. Although family interventions, in general, are considered an important adjunct to the treatment of patients with chronic psychosis, there may be difficulties in providing an educational and support intervention shortly after first onset. How and when psychiatric services provide information and advice to carers of people newly diagnosed with a psychosis requires further study.