Characteristics of an Accident and Emergency liaison mental health service in East London


Patrick Callaghan, Department of Mental Health and Learning Disability Nursing, City University, Philpot Street, London E1 2EA, UK. E-mail:


Characteristics of an Accident and Emergency liaison mental health service in East London

Aim of the study. To analyse the work of a liaison mental health service at the Accident and Emergency (A & E) department of a hospital in East London.

Background. The English National Service Frameworks (NSF) for Mental Health recommend that A & E departments provide liaison mental health services and this study reports how a service in East London is responding to this challenge.

Research methods. Data were collected during a 14-month period using a specially designed audit form.

Results. The typical referral was aged 36, of either sex, United Kingdom (UK) non-White with a diagnosis of depression. The majority of referrals were in the afternoon and seen immediately. A slight majority were known to mental health services; many were new referrals. Older and male clients were more likely, and Bengali and other Asian clients were less likely, to be registered with a psychiatrist. There were seasonal variations in referral type. Emergency referrals tended to have a diagnosis of schizophrenia; urgent and non-urgent referrals were more likely to be depressed. The outcome for the majority of referrals was referral to appropriate community services. The majority of non-clinical referrals were for advice, information and support.

Discussion and conclusions. The service seems a useful resource for A & E staff, and clients with mental health problems. The service is a channel through which people access mental health services and appears to address the NSF for Mental Health.