What do general practitioners and community mental health teams talk about? Descriptive analysis of liaison meetings in general practice.
Midgley S., Burns T., Garland C.
BACKGROUND: Liaison meetings between psychiatrists and general practitioners are now well established. Much has been written about their purpose and structure but little about their content. AIM: A study aimed to describe the clinical focus of meetings between a community mental health team and general practitioners and the nature of the professionals' interactions. METHOD: Audiotapes of six consecutive monthly meetings between a community mental health team and general practitioners in two general practices were analysed. RESULTS: Attendance rates among professionals were over 70%. Over 90% of discussion time was focused on patient-centred clinical matters. Almost two thirds of interactions were focused on patients receiving ongoing joint care; few interactions were devoted to new referrals or to patients who had not been assessed. Psychotic patients, although accounting for 15% of referrals, occupied 54% of patient-centred discussion time. Most interactions consisted of reciprocal information exchange between members of the community mental health team and general practitioners. CONCLUSION: The high attendance rates indicate that both general practitioners and community mental health team members considered these meetings as high priority. The steady move towards management of severely ill psychiatric patients in the community rather than in hospital requires close collaboration between primary and secondary care teams. The meetings described in this paper appear to be a simple, manageable and sustainable response to this need.