Integrating mental and physical healthcare is difficult to achieve because of professional and organisational barriers. Psychiatrists recognise the problems resulting from fragmentation of services and want continuity of care for patients, but commissioning and service structures perpetuate these problems. One way forward may be to follow the syndromic model employed by geriatricians as a means of avoiding over-emphasis on diagnosis above the pragmatics of implementing multicomponent, coordinated care. Commissioners need to be made aware of the overlap and complementarity of skills possessed by old age psychiatry and geriatric medicine to create joint services for people vulnerable to dementia and delirium. A re-forged alliance between the two specialties will be necessary to turn integrated care for frail, elderly people from rhetoric into reality.