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Prof Paul Bebbington
UCL Division of Psychiatry
6th Floor Maple House, 149 Tottenham Court Road
Prof Paul Bebbington profile picture
  • Emeritus Professor of Social and Community Psychiatry
  • Division of Psychiatry
  • Faculty of Brain Sciences

Professor Paul Bebbington was born in Scotland and lives in South London. He was educated at Cambridge University, where he was awarded a First Class Honours BA in the Natural Sciences with a Part 2 in psychology, and an athletics Blue. He was trained in psychiatry at the Maudsley Hospital and at the Institute of Psychiatry. For nearly 20 years he worked in the Medical Research Council Social Psychiatry Unit at the Institute of Psychiatry, eventually becoming Assistant Director. In 1996, he moved to University College London (UCL) to a new Chair in Social & Community Psychiatry. He was Head of the Department of Mental Health Sciences at UCL from 2004 until November 2009. He became Professor Emeritus at UCL in October 2010 on his retirement. During his academic career he also worked clinically as a consultant psychiatrist, initially in the Maudsley Hospital, and later in the Camden and Islington NHS Community Mental Health Trust. For the six years before his retirement he worked as the consultant psychiatrist in a community mental health in-reach team in a women’s prison. For many years, he has been a trustee of the charity, the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies.

 Professor Bebbington’s research has concentrated on social and epidemiological aspects of psychiatry, on mental health services, and on psychological theories and treatments of psychosis. With colleagues, he was instrumental in the organization and design of all four British National Surveys of Psychiatric Morbidity (1993-2014). He has been involved in several randomized controlled trials of psychiatric interventions and psychological treatments. He was the Editor-in-Chief of Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology from 1993 until 2013, and the founding editor of the International Review of Psychiatry.   Professor Bebbington continues to write extensively.  He has over 500 scientific publications and currently has an H-factor of 93. In 2018 he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Italian Association for Social Psychiatry for his contribution to the rise of modern social and epidemiological psychiatry


Research Themes
Research Summary

These have included social psychiatry, epidemiological surveys, instrument development, the social causes and concomitants of depression and schizophrenia, psychological mechanisms in schizophrenia, cognitive behaviour therapy, and health service research.

In the last twenty-five years, my main research activity, with colleagues, has been in epidemiological and mental health service research, and in using psychological treatments to test psychological theories of psychosis. Much of the recent epidemiological research has involved analysis of the four National Surveys of Psychiatric Morbidity (1993-2014), together with the National Prisons Survey. In addition, we have just published the results of a psychiatric survey in Holloway and Pentonville prisons (2017). 

There have been major papers in the epidemiology of substance abuse and of suicidal ideation, and studies of social exclusion and of access to treatment for mental disorders. Most recently, we have used National Survey data to assess links between victimisation experiences and psychosis, and to examine the structure of quasi-psychotic experience in the normal population. We are also currently analysing the European Schizophrenia Cohort (EuroSC), a sample of 1208 people with schizophrenia from Germany, France and England, followed up in detail six-monthly for two years.

My mental health service research included evaluations of policy initiatives, with important RCTs of Crisis Resolution Teams and Assertive Outreach Teams. 

The Prevention of Relapse in Psychosis programme (funded by Wellcome 2001-2007) was a collaboration with KCL, UEA and the University of Manchester. It used a large multicentre RCT of CBT and family intervention in psychosis to test a detailed model of psychotic symptoms (ISRCTN 83557988. Over 300 patients were randomised and a large number of papers based on planned baseline analyses have been published. The results of the trial were published in June 2008, and we used the follow up data to test hypotheses relating to psychological processes associated with improvement. We have now obtained further funding in the light of these findings. 

This work led to a collaboration with Prof Mel Slater at UCL on a programme using virtual reality in experiments designed to identify psychological processes involved in paranoid ideation in both patients and normal members of the population.

The most recent initiative in this programme involved a collaboration with KCL, and the Universities of Oxford, Manchester and Sussex for a trial of cognitive behaviour therapy for psychosis designed to ameliorate the fast thinking that characterises delusions. The therapy (SlowMo) is supported by personalised phone apps.  The project received £1.4 million of EME funding ("A randomised controlled trial to evaluate the outcomes and mechanisms of a novel digital reasoning intervention for persecutory delusions"). Recruitment and retention of patients in the trial was very successful: 362 participants were randomised, The results have now been analysed, and the final report has been submitted (August 2020). The experimental group showed a range of improvements compared with controls. The base paper is being drafted.

Teaching Summary

Although no longer involved in teaching administration, Professor Bebbington has since his retirement continued to contribute to the Division's teaching programme as required, 

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