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Consultation-liaison psychiatry in general practice

, : Consultation-liaison psychiatry in general practice. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 31(1): 85-94

Objective: This paper describes the characteristics of 303 consecutive referrals, over a 12-month period, to a consultation-liaison (C-L) psychiatry service provided to eight group general practices in Newcastle, Australia. Method: A purpose designed service audit form was used throughout the evaluation period to collect information about demographic characteristics, reasons for referral, service contacts, psychiatric diagnoses and clinical management. In addition, patients were invited to participate in a separate, prospective outcome evaluation study, which involved structured interviews and questionnaires. Results: The most common reasons for referral were: depression (33%); anxiety (12%); diagnostic assessment (9%); and impaired relationships (8%). The most common psychiatric diagnoses were: mood disorders (29%); mild, transient conditions (29%); anxiety (14%); and substance abuse disorders (12%). Following the psychiatric consultation(s), GPs were actively involved in patients' treatment in 53% of cases. However, there was a higher than expected rate of referral (44%) to another mental health agency. Selected comparisons are also reported between patients referred to the C-L service (n=303) and a sample of non-referred GP attenders (n=535). Conclusions: As expected, the diagnostic profiles of patients attending the C-L service differed in several respects from those using similar services in general hospitals. There were comparatively low rates of organic brain syndromes, suicide risk evaluations, and problems of differential diagnosis of somatic symptoms. Greater emphasis needs to be placed on more formal psychiatric education for GPs, on ways of screening out from the referral process those patients with mild, transient conditions who do not require specialist expertise, and on the development of strategies to help GPs manage such conditions.


PMID: 9088491

DOI: 10.3109/00048679709073804

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