The aim of the study was to evaluate the open referral system from social services to a community mental health team (CMHT) for older people. Referral letters from social services to the specialist team were reviewed, as were the case notes.
Of the 40 referrals, 95% (n=38) were accepted by the CMHT. Only 15% (n=6) fulfilled the team's existing referral criteria. The majority of referrals (n=36, 90%) had details of the patient's mental health problems. None of the referrals with memory problems had a cognitive assessment. Of the 38 referrals accepted by the CMHT, 36 were found to be suffering from a mental illness. The open referral system from social services did not increase the total number of annual referrals.
Social services play an important role in identifying and referring older people with mental illness and ensure a potentially rapid referral route bypassing primary care. The practice of accepting direct referrals from social services should be encouraged and made an integral part of the referral system.
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