This guidance is for liaison psychiatry services during the COVID-19 pandemic. It should be read in conjunction with official guidance for maintaining services within health and care settings.
Acute hospitals responded rapidly to the challenge of COVID-19 with radical operational changes. Corresponding system-wide changes also took place in mental health and social care provision which aimed to care for all except the most acutely physically unwell outside of the acute hospital. This meant that alternative services were set up to assess patients with mental health problems.
In August 2020, The Faculty of Liaison Psychiatry published Alternatives to emergency departments for mental health assessments during the COVID-19 pandemic which made recommendations to inform the future of alternative care pathways and assessment units. Some alternative units have continued to be used with a few becoming embedded into usual practice, though many services have discontinued their use. NHS England and Improvement advised against alternative units becoming ‘business as usual’ unless there is robust evidence for their continued use.
Liaison psychiatry services remain essential to the functioning of the acute hospital with a key role in facilitating safe and timely discharges. Services should follow updated guidance on maintaining services within health and care settings: infection prevention and control recommendations.
Guidance should also be read in conjunction with the broader guidance for psychiatry clinicians published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.