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General hospitals 'need psychiatric liaison service'

Many acute hospital staff are unequipped to cope with patents suffering mental health-related problems, a new report has warned.

At any given time 30%-60% of patients in a general hospital will be experiencing such illnesses - a proportion far greater than is found in the general population, according to the new study.

The most common conditions include depression, dementia and alcohol-related disorders.

These are some of the conclusions of a study published on December 19 by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

It has called for every acute hospital to have a liaison psychiatry service.

Mental health nurses should be included in these teams, the report recommends, alongside psychiatrists, mental health pharmacists and other specialist mental health staff.

The service would supervise the mental health requirements of patients being treated mainly for physical health conditions.

The report claims that several acute hospital staff lack the training, knowledge and skills to identify and manage these conditions.

A third of liaison psychiatry workers thinks this has worsened patient care.

The study says that introducing liaison services could improve quality of care for patients, lower readmission levels, reduce length of stay, and save trusts millions of pounds.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) are among the six other professional bodies are supporting the Liaison Psychiatry for Every Acute Hospital report.

The others are the College of Emergency Medicine, College of Mental Health Pharmacy, Royal College of General Practitioners, Royal College of Physicians and the Society for Acute Medicine.

Liaison psychiatry service teams would work with general hospital staff to improve the quality of care, lessen stigma and contribute to improved clinical outcomes in patients with a wide variety of physical ailments.

Studies have found that having a working liaison service can benefit hospitals financially.

President of the Society for Acute Medicine, Dr Alistair Douglas, said: “Adopting the guidelines in this report will go a long way to achieving better care for these patients in line with the Society for Acute Medicine’s Quality Standard.”

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Readers' comments (2)

  • I Agree With This 100%

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  • Oh _please_ let this actually make a difference. As a nurse I've seen so many patients have their psychiatric meds stopped cold turkey on admission to hospital & suffer the impact. This is a hospital that has liaison psychiatry, but they only see patients admitted with acute psychiatric problems or to assess suicide risk/alcohol issues - not acute admissions with a primary physical diagnosis, nor routine admissions (e.g for surgery or investigations), who then have psychiatric meds, routines & coping strategies disrupted, but any issues that then arise will be pathologised (or ignored) as 'just as patient's mad' (or even more common 'attention seeking as mad')

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