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Liaison psychiatry services can save the NHS millions and improve lives 

Every NHS hospital should have a liaison psychiatry service as standard, says a new joint report from the NHS Confederation's Mental Health Network and the Centre for Mental Health (8 November).
hospital inpatient 

Considerable savings

Liaison psychiatry - the way ahead, published today at the Mental Health Network's annual conference, finds that liaison psychiatry services can save an average hospital £5 million a year by reducing the number and length of admissions to beds. Even bigger savings could be achieved in future if liaison psychiatry services were extended to work in the community to prevent crises from happening at all.

Integrated physical and mental health care

Liaison psychiatry services provide immediate access to specialist mental health support for people being treated for physical health problems, most often in general hospitals and in some cases, in the community.

People with a long-term physical health condition are more than twice as likely to have a mental health problem as the general population. This can have a huge effect on a patient’s chances of recovery; for example, someone with chronic heart failure is eight times more likely to die within 30 months if they also have depression.

With over 4.6 million people with a long-term physical health condition and co-morbid mental health problem, millions would benefit from more integrated physical and mental health care.

Better care, lower cost

The report concludes that well run liaison psychiatry services can be highly cost-effective, saving more money than they cost. The greatest immediate impact can be achieved by supporting older patients in hospital, but these services also have the potential to offer better care at potentially lower cost to many other groups, both in hospital and in the community.

Standard practice

Paddy Cooney, interim director of Mental Health Network said: "There are a number of NHS organisations doing some really great work to improve liaison psychiatry services. But we need to see this become standard practice so that all patients in need of urgent mental health support can access it when they need it.

Sgnificant economic and health benefits

"Evidence shows the significant economic and health benefits that these services can deliver. Failing to treat people's mental and physical health problems together can have negative consequences for the individual, and costs the NHS more money in the long term."

Joined-up working

Mr Cooney added: "Joined up working between NHS organisations is key to making mental health services effective for the people who need them. I hope this report will provide the necessary evidence to show just how important it is that these services become commonplace in the NHS."

Tackling artificial divide

Sean Duggan, chief executive of Centre for Mental Health, said: “Liaison psychiatry is still seen in some quarters as an optional extra in the NHS. This needs to change. Tackling the artificial divide between mental and physical health will help people to recover more quickly and save the NHS money. To do this we need a dedicated liaison psychiatry service in every hospital.”

Find out more

Download Liaison psychiatry - the way ahead, launching at this year's Mental Health Network annual conference and exhibition.

Find out more about the network and what will be happening at today's conference

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Georgie Agass

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