Liaison psychiatry services

This information 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.


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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 services.

A liaison psychiatry service may also be known by another name, such as psychological medicine, or general hospital psychiatry.

Liaison psychiatry services are usually made up of:

  • Psychiatrists (doctors who have specialised in psychiatry)
  • Mental health nurses
  • Administrative staff.

Teams may also have some or all of the following staff:

  • Psychologists
  • Psychological therapists
  • Pharmacists
  • 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.

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.

Liaison psychiatry services see people with a wide range of problems. These include

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 other.

No. 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.

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.

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 taking. 

The team will also consider whether other treatments, such as talking therapies, may help.

This information 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
The information reflects the best available evidence at the time of writing.

Published: Oct 2015

Review due: Oct 2018

© Royal College of Psychiatrists