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Patients on a general medical ward were offered a liaison psychiatric service with 'unlimited' access, in which referrals were accepted from nurses, other paramedical staff and junior doctors in addition to senior medical staff. This new service (method II) was compared with the usual liaison service (method I, referrals initiated or approved by senior medical staff only) which was continued in parallel on a comparable general medical ward. Method II resulted in a threefold increase in referral rate and led to a significant alteration in the types of problem attracting referral. Despite the much higher rate of method II referrals, however, similar percentages of referrals by both methods were offered psychiatric follow up. The results do not support the commonly held belief that it is the failure of ward staff to recognize psychiatric morbidity which accounts for the low rate of referrals to many psychiatric liaison services.