Psychiatric liaison services ‘highly valued’, says new report

A snapshot survey found that 98% of patients felt they were treated with support and understanding by their liaison professional, and 92% of general hospital staff believed their hospital’s liaison service helped improve patient outcomes.

One patient said of her liaison team: “They have been very helpful to me and their support is what has made me a strong and positive woman today. If it was not for them I wouldn’t know who I am and where I am heading to.  I can now cope with each and every day’s life challenges in a positive way and seek support where I need help.”

Psychiatric liaison services work with a wide range of patients in emergency departments and hospital wards. They may help people who are struggling to cope with long term physical health problems, people who have self-harmed, or attend hospital with alcohol problems, delirium, dementia and/or disturbed behaviour.

In 2009, the CCQI set up the Psychiatric Liaison Accreditation Network (PLAN) to help services share good practice, recognise achievement and identify areas for improvement. The new report, The Psychiatric Liaison Accreditation Network Annual Report: Cycle 1 2009-2010, summarises the key data collected from the 17 services that took part in the first cycle of PLAN, including feedback from psychiatric liaison professionals, general hospital staff, and the patients and carers who use the service.

The report makes a series of recommendations for liaison teams, including: 

  • Liaison teams should invest in training for all staff – not just new staff. Service users should be invited to develop and deliver training where possible.
  • The skill mix of the team should be reviewed annually to identify any gaps in the service.
  • The transition between liaison staff and out-of-hours cover should be made smoother.
  • Guidance for colleagues working in acute medicine about what types of cases should be referred to liaison teams should be improved.
  • Teams should share best practice with other teams.
  • Service users should be consistently given the option of being copied into correspondence with their GP and/or other services.


The report also draws commissioners’ attention to the value of psychiatric liaison services and the importance of Trusts investing in the future of such services. 


Dr Paul Gill, Consultant Psychiatrist at Sheffield Liaison Psychiatry Service and Chair of the PLAN Accreditation Committee said: “Psychiatric liaison teams are well placed to help hospitals to deal with rapid identification of mental health problems, avoid unnecessary admission to in-patient units and provide a better understanding of physical and mental co-morbidity. By participating in the PLAN accreditation process, member teams have been able to make valuable improvements to their service which they may not have otherwise had the opportunity to make.”


Of the 17 services successfully accredited by PLAN, 5 have been rated as ‘excellent’. These top-rated services are at: Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, Arrowe Park Hospital in the Wirral, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London, Countess of Chester Hospital in Chester, and St Helier Hospital in Surrey.

Dr Jim Bolton, Consultant Psychiatrist at St Helier Hospital, said: PLAN has helped my team to focus on what is important to achieve in a high quality service.  We have made significant changes to our working as a result.  PLAN has also raised the profile of our service amongst our managers and within the hospital.”

Following the success of the first wave of the programme, a second cycle is now underway.  New members are welcome to join the next wave of activity, which will start in the autumn.

The College of Emergency Medicine, Mind, Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of Physicians are partners of PLAN and continue to recognise and support the important work being carried out by psychiatric liaison services around the UK.

For further information, please contact Liz Fox or Deborah Hart in the Communications Department.
Telephone: 020 7235 2351 Extensions. 6298 or 6127


For more information about PLAN, including the second edition standards and the new report, visit

Note to editors:

The Psychiatric Liaison Accreditation Network (PLAN) PLAN is managed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Centre for Quality Improvement (CCQI). The programme is open to new members and is funded by members’ subscription fees, which cost £2900 + VAT. Discounts are available for longer-term sign up.