Early intervention at the onset of psychotic disorders is a highly attractive theoretical notion that is receiving increasing international interest. In practical terms, it amounts to first deciding when a psychotic disorder can be said to have commenced and then offering potentially effective treatment at the earliest possible point. A second element involves ensuring that this intervention constitutes best practice for this phase of illness and is not merely the translation of standard treatments developed for later stages and the more persistently ill subgroups of the disorder. Furthermore, it means ensuring that this best practice model is actually delivered to patients and families. The relative importance of these elements in relation to outcome has not yet been established. This article outlines a framework for preventive intervention in early psychosis, based on more than a decade of experience initially gained within a first-generation model. This experience has been followed, after a prolonged gestation, by the birth of the Early Psychosis Prevention and Intervention Centre (EPPIC), a comprehensive 'real-world' model of care targeting the multiple clinical loci underpinning the preventive task. Data are reported to illustrate the topography and impact of delay in treatment in our regional setting, and the results of an initial evaluation of the EPPIC model are presented. The latter demonstrate a significant improvement in symptomatic and functional outcome when the second-generation model is contrasted with the first. The implications of these findings and future developments are discussed.