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Community Psychiatric Nurses in Primary Health Care

  • Kevin Gournay (a1) and Julia Brooking (a2)



Community psychiatric nurses (CPNs) are increasingly working in primary health care with non-psychotic patients. This study was designed to test the efficacy of this work.


The study was carried out in six health centres in north London with a total of 36 participating general practitioners (GPs) and 11 CPNs. Using a randomised controlled trial, 177 patients were referred by their GP and randomly allocated to continuing GP care, immediate community psychiatric nursing intervention, or placed on a 12-week waiting-list, after which time the patient was offered CPN intervention. A range of measures of symptoms and social function were used, and ratings were carried out at assessment and at 24 weeks.


Patients improved on all measures over time (P < 0.001 for all measures). However, there was no difference between the group of patients receiving GP care and patients seen by the CPN. Improvements seemed to be independent of the amount of contact. Drop-out rates from CPN intervention were high (50%). CPN drop-outs were more disabled to start with, but did as well as CPN treatment completers. Patients were more likely to drop out with trained than untrained CPNs. There was no evidence that referral to a CPN saved GP time.


The results add weight to the argument that CPNs should refocus their activity on people with serious mental health problems, and indicate that CPN education should focus on skill acquisition and interventions of proven effectiveness.


Corresponding author

Professor K. Gournay, Professor of Mental Health, Middlesex University, Enfield, Middlesex EN3 4SF


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Community Psychiatric Nurses in Primary Health Care

  • Kevin Gournay (a1) and Julia Brooking (a2)
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