Objectives: To determine the reasons for referral of elderly medical inpatients for psychiatric consultation and the appropriateness of such referrals. To determine whether the provision of a consultation service is associated with increases in referral rates over time.
Method: One hundred consecutive referrals seen over an 18-week period were included in the study and data on reason for referral, ICD-10 diagnosis and recommended interventions gathered prospectively. Rates of referral were calculated and compared with a similar study performed in the same location five years previously.
Results: In this location the most frequent reason for referral was for assessment of depressive symptoms (47%). Referrals were generally appropriate and there was a high degree of concordance between reason for referral and psychiatric diagnosis, particularly for depressive symptoms. There was a moderate (22%) increase in referral rates in the five years since the previous study. Concordance rates between reason for referral and psychiatric diagnosis had improved considerably during this period, particularly for depressive symptoms.
Conclusions: Referral rates for psychogeriatric consultation increase over time. Referrals are generally appropriate, and recognition of depressive illness improves. Psychiatric illness may still be under-recognised and increasing workload may indicate a need for more refined models of service delivery.