What is Liaison Psychiatry?
Liaison psychiatry involves clinical practice, teaching and
research in psychiatry that takes place in non-psychiatric settings. In the UK that has meant mainly in acute
(general) hospitals or in specialist settings such as neurology centres,
although there have been small scale attempts to practice liaison psychiatry in
primary care (general practice). The rationale for liaison psychiatry is that
people with mental health problems don’t get the best care if they are being
seen in a non-psychiatric setting, unless there is a specialist team available
to see them where they are.
The main areas of activity in liaison psychiatry are:
- Mental health problems that co-exist with
physical disease, which is sometimes called co-morbidity or multi-morbidity.
Each condition tends to complicate the treatment of the other and can lead to
poor outcomes for the patient.
- Medically unexplained symptoms such as pain,
chronic fatigue, weakness or loss of bodily feeling. These conditions often
have a psychological component, although it upsets some people to say so.
- Psychiatric emergencies such as suicidal
behaviour, acute psychosis, or delirium – all of which are seen in acute
Liaison psychiatrists can work in the emergency department,
on acute inpatient wards, in specialist hospital departments, and in their own
specialist outpatient clinics.
The Royal College of Psychiatry has a Faculty
of Liaison Psychiatry . There’s more information on the Faculty
website. The textbook Seminars
in Liaison Psychiatry covers the subject in detail: the 3rd
edition is currently in preparation.