Liaison Psychiatry Services
What do they do?
Who is this leaflet for?
This leaflet is for anyone who has been
referred to a liaison psychiatry service. It may also help
their family, friends or carers understand more about liaison
psychiatry services and what they do.
What is liaison psychiatry?
It has long been known that there is
interaction between the body and the mind. Liaison psychiatry
is the specialty of psychiatry that deals with this relationship,
and the link between people’s physical and mental health.
Most liaison psychiatry services are based
within general hospitals. However, liaison psychiatry
services may also work with GPs and with community health
A liaison psychiatry service may also be known
by another name, such as psychological medicine, or
general hospital psychiatry.
Who works in the service?
Liaison psychiatry services are usually made
- Psychiatrists (doctors who have specialised in psychiatry)
- Mental health nurses
- Administrative staff.
Teams may also have some or all of the
- Psychological therapists
- Social workers
- Occupational therapists
- Specialists in alcohol or drug misuse.
Liaison psychiatry team members work together,
using their different skills and expertise to help people. Liaison
psychiatry services also work closely with other doctors and
healthcare workers to ensure that your physical and mental health
care are as joined up as possible.
Why have I been referred to liaison
You have been referred because your doctor
thinks that assessment or treatment by a liaison psychiatry service
may help you with your physical or mental health problem. There is
good evidence to suggest that helping with psychological or
emotional problems can improve your physical health.
What sorts of problems do liaison psychiatry teams deal
Liaison psychiatry services see people with a
wide range of problems. These include
Do the doctors think that I am making up my problems,
or that they are all in my head?
No. Psychological problems are more common in
people who have physical illnesses. We also know that if we help
with the psychological side of things, the physical problems are
more likely to improve. Therefore, your treating team and the
liaison psychiatry team feel that it is the best way forward for
all of your issues to be addressed, rather than just one or the
Do the doctors think I am mad?
No. Most people with mental health
problems are not “mad”, but have problems with feeling stressed,
sad, anxious or confused.
Up to 4 in 10 people admitted to
hospital will experience some form of mental health problem.
These range from mild and short-lived problems to more serious
mental health problems.
The liaison psychiatry service in your
hospital will see hundreds of people every year. They don’t
jump to any conclusions about people who are referred to them, but
make a careful assessment to understand someone’s physical and
psychological problems better.
Will my medical doctor still see me?
Liaison psychiatry services worked closely
with colleagues in the different medical and surgical specialties.
Often, after you have been referred to a liaison
psychiatry service, you will still be seen by your medical or
surgical doctor or healthcare team. Or it may be more appropriate
for you to be managed by the liaison psychiatry team working
alongside your GP.
What sort of treatment will I be offered?
Liaison psychiatrist staff are experts at
using a variety of treatments for people with physical illness.
You may be prescribed medication. If so,
your doctor will take into account how these medicines might
interact with your physical illness or other medications you are
The team will also consider whether other
treatments, such as talking therapies, may help.
This leaflet was produced by the Royal College of
Psychiatrists' Liaison Psychiatry Section and the Public
Education Editorial Board.
Series editor: Dr Philip Timms
Authors: Amrit Sachar, Alastair Santhouse
This leaflet reflects the best available evidence at the time
© October 2013. Due for review: October 2015.
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