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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

The Management of Patients with Physical and Psychological Problems in Primary Care

Dr Peter Aitken, Director of Research & Development, Research Department, Devon Partnership NHS Trust

Service development liaison psychiatry

As commissioning arrangements in England change, there is a real opportunity to provide needs-led integrated services for people with physical symptoms where the underlying medical and psychological causation is incompletely or poorly understood. This report, written by members of the College and the RCGPs, is a practical guide to the management of individuals with physical symptoms and an associated psychological component. It focuses upon the person, the practitioner and the process. It is jargon-free, yet full of useful professional guidance and advice.


Physical illness is stressful and places great demands on patients and their families. A GP is usually the first health professional to whom people turn when they develop symptoms. Careful and sensitive handling of such consultations can result in positive outcomes with the resolution of symptoms and the person feeling understood.


Liaison psychiatrists

Liaison psychiatrists specialise in the interface between physical and psychological illness. They have expertise in the treatment of psychological symptoms that develop in the context of physical disease and also physical symptoms for which there does not appear to be an underlying organic explanation (so-called ‘medically unexplained symptoms’). Liaison psychiatry services can provide valuable support to GPs, pre-hospital care and out of hospital work in addition to their work in hospitals.




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