In recent negotiations local healthcare commissioners told us that we would be unlikely to attract additional resources to our liaison psychiatry service until we changed our name because ‘We don’t know what you do!’. A suggested alternative is psychological medicine.
We asked 48 patients referred to our service and 108 general hospital staff for their preferred name for our service from a choice of four: psychological medicine, medical psychiatry, liaison psychiatry, hospital psychiatry. The preferences of the two groups were significantly different (χ2=22.7, P<0.001). The first choice of patients was psychological medicine (44%), with 27% preferring liaison psychiatry. The first choice of hospital staff was liaison psychiatry (42%), with only 16% preferring psychological medicine. A number of patients commented that the word ‘liaison’ was not well understood and ‘ psychiatry’ was off-putting and intimidating. Hospital staff, however, commented that they were familiar with our service and that a change of name would be confusing.
We have decided to continue as ‘liaison psychiatry’ because we are well established and our service is understood by our referrers. However, we recommend that a newly established service consider psychological medicine as a name that is preferred by many patients, and one that may be perceived as less stigmatising.
One group that we have not surveyed is our commissioners. However, it is clear that without an alternative name we will have to educate them about the benefits of liaison psychiatry.