What is Liaison Psychiatry?

  • June 21, 2019

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 hospitals.

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.   

Allan House

E-mail : a.o.house@gmail.com


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