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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

An interesting 24 hours

Thursday, 26 February

As politicians reflect, what an ‘interesting 24 hours this has been’. First and foremost, I am really grateful to everybody who is feeding back via the survey, and for the emails I am receiving from members, as well as some very cogent and telling letters about their views on the Bill.

If you are following the BBC, the Guardian or the Telegraph, you will see the rather surreal events that have unfolded around the Royal Medical Colleges and the Academy.

I left the Academy building at 2.30pm on Tuesday afternoon in the honest and 100% belief that we had an agreed statement, which would absolutely acknowledge that the only College dissenting from this view was the Royal College of Surgeons in England.

As the document was leaked in full to The Guardian (I hasten to say that this was not me, as that would be a breach of trust), I am pasting the Academy statement document that I had signed up to verbatim, because I think this is the most honest thing I can do for members.

Statement 24/01/12

‘The Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties of the AoMRC continue to have significant concerns over a number of aspects of the Health Bill and are disappointed that more progress has not been made in directly addressing the issues we have raised.

The Academy and Medical Royal Colleges are not able to support the Bill as it currently stands. Unless the proposals are modified the Academy believes that Bill may widen rather than lessen health inequalities and that unnecessary competition will undermine the provision of high quality integrated care to patients.

As the Health Committee has highlighted the Academy is deeply concerned that the upheaval caused by the changes in the Bill will distract the NHS from the huge task of meeting the current financial challenges.

The Academy and Colleges retain these concerns but they will work with the Government and NHS organisations to ensure that the NHS provides the best possible care to patients should the Bill become law.’

*To be added a statement/note to make clear that the RCSEng do not support the second paragraph."

Turning adversity into advantage, I already had a meeting scheduled with Paul Burstow MP yesterday evening, where it was really helpful to have Lucy Thorpe, Head of Policy, and Kam Bhui, Public Health Lead, with me.The meeting had been arranged to discuss parity of esteem between physical health and mental health, how we would work with Public Health England, and the importance of mental health to public health.

Inevitably there was going to be discussion on the Bill. I said very straightforwardly that my view was the view of the Academy statement; that we were not able to support the Bill as it currently stands, but whilst retaining concern, we would continue to work with the Government and NHS organisations. I said that this remained the College view at the present time, but made the Minister aware that there was a survey in progress, and therefore once we had analysed the findings, this view may change.

On an entirely positive note however, we did present our thoughts about public mental health, and how we aligned these thoughts against the outcomes framework and indicators. This was well-received by the Minister and the civil servants.

Since then, events have moved on. On your behalf, I am attending another Academy meeting this evening, Lucy Thorpe will be attending the forum meeting between the RCN, the BMA and the Academy, as I am off to Glasgow later tonight – because life does have to exist beyond the Bill!

The Academy is the body that has Trustees and Governance structures, and we have to learn from what has happened over the last 24hours in that we must work within a robust governance process.

On your behalf, I went to a meeting with the Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies, who started the first of the Policy Breakfasts about public health. I found her direct and straight talking approach very helpful. I explained everything that we were already doing in this arena, and further the projects that the four female Presidents of the Colleges of Psychiatrists, General Practice, Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and Public Health have in mind, i.e. that we were going to look at how we work across the four Colleges to ‘build resilience in families’. I highlighted that the College campaign would be on ‘Resilience and Recovery’.

I had a separate discussion with her around what we are going to do to move forward academic psychiatry and mental health research. I will be sending an email out to key academics today to clarify their position as to what they want me to do on increasing the recognition, value and worth of mental health research. I did pledge this in my election statement, therefore a relative lack of response to date will not put me off. We now have the chance to move this on with Sally Davies, and this is not an opportunity I want to miss.

You will be pleased to hear that at yesterday’s Medical Programme Board (England) meeting, everything we wanted for psychiatry was finally agreed. I would just like to say that Tom Brown and Stuart Carney were brilliant, and the Chair of the Academy and the Royal College of Physicians were very supportive.

Most importantly, the Board endorsed the College's recruitment strategy. There was broad support for a phased approach to expand the number of psychiatry posts in the Foundation Programme and we all need to work together to ensure that we provide the best possible experience for trainees.

As part of the recruitment strategy, we will be promoting tasters for foundation doctors. I am grateful to Faculties and Divisions for sharing good practice. There needs to be a major drive over the next few months to ensure that as many foundation doctors as possible can undertake a taster in psychiatry.

Tomorrow I also will blog about what I am sure will be a positive day in Scotland, and I am really looking forward to listening and learning.

Just to brace those of you who are getting ready for it; I would not usually blog about personal matters, but thought I should let you know in case somebody sees me there: I will be going to the ‘On Tour: Strictly Come Dancing’ in Liverpool on the weekend of 4th February.


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