Population prediction tool for psychotic illnesses

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Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders have massive personal and societal cost, but early treatment improves outcomes. Although specialist National Health Service (NHS) early intervention services (EIS) were set up in the 2000s to address this, resources were not distributed across England in a way that matched need.

Epidemiological research carried out by Cambridge and subsequently University College London researchers with collaborators from Queen Mary University of London and King’s College London showed that national average figures are misleading at a local level. Instead, they defined the existence and determinants of major differences in incidence rates of psychotic disorders across different geographic locations.

They translated this evidence into a free, population prediction tool (PsyMaptic) for NHS commissioners now adapted by Public Health England into its ‘Fingertips tool’, used to present health data in use throughout the NHS.

The tool was used to implement new policies for EIS that came into effect in 2016. The UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance at the time recommended all NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) should use PsyMaptic predictions to re-commission EIS, matching resources to the needs of their communities.

Jones was appointed clinical lead for implementation of the new NICE standard across NHS England Midlands and East and, with James Kirkbride, sat on the national advisory board. Access to EIS in England within two weeks of a first psychotic episode has now increased from 33% of patients in 2014 to 76% in 2018/19, exceeding NHS targets of 50%. Updated guidance, published by NICE in 2020 continues to recommend use of PsyMaptic.