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The Specialist Mental Health Service for people with an intellectual disability (ID) and psychiatric disorder (referred to throughout this paper as ‘the Service’) has been in operation in south-east London for the last 18 years, during which time two local, long-stay institutions have closed.To measure the number of referrals to the Service from 1983 to 2001 and identify trends.Data were recorded on 752 new referrals using the assessment and information rating profile. Diagnoses according to the International Classification of Diseases (10th edition) were made by two psychiatrists. Referrals for a one off consultation or assessment, or with an IQ > 70 were excluded from analysis.Over time more non-white clients and more clients with mild ID were referred. More referrals were made in later years, and a greater proportion came from primary care. Later referrals were also more likely to have a psychiatric diagnosis than those in earlier years.Significant trends in referrals were identified, which may be explained by various external factors.