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Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2003 Apr;37(2):150-9.

The future of consultation-liaison psychiatry.

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Department of Psychological Medicine, Monash University, Monash Medical Centre, 246 Clayton Road, Clayton, Victoria 3168, Australia.



To review the status of consultation-liaison psychiatry and the factors shaping it, and suggest strategies for its future development.


In addition to searches of the main computerized psychiatric databases and review of relevant Commonwealth of Australia publications, the author drew on discussions with national and international colleagues in his role as convenor of the International Organization for Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry.


Physical/psychiatric comorbidity and somatization, the conditions in which consultation-liaison psychiatry specializes, are the commonest forms of psychiatric presentation in the community. They are as disabling as psychotic disorders, and comorbid depression in particular is a predictor of increased morbidity and mortality. Acknowledging this, the Second Australian National Mental Health Plan called for consultation-liaison psychiatry to be allowed to participate fully in the mental health care system. It stated that failure to define the term 'severe mental health problems and mental disorders' in the First Plan had led to some public mental health systems erroneously equating severity with diagnosis rather than level of need and disability. The call has been largely unheeded. The implication for patient care is both direct and indirect; the context created for psychiatry training by such a restricted focus is helping to perpetuate the neglect of such patients. This is a worldwide problem.


Proactive involvement with consumers is required if the problem is to be redressed. At a service level, development of a seamless web of pre-admission/admission/post-discharge functions is required if patients with physical/psychiatric comorbidity and somatoform disorders are to receive effective care, and consultation-liaison psychiatry services are to be able to demonstrate efficacy. Focus on comorbidity in the Australian Third National Mental Health Plan may force resolution of the current problems.

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