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

Health & Social Care Bill

Friday 20 January

In my last blog, I told you I was in Belfast on Wednesday for New Year 2012 Academic Meeting of the RCPsych in Northern Ireland. Lucy Thorpe, Head of the Policy Unit, and I had a fantastic day and we learnt a great deal. In particular, I've brought home two themes to pursue: one around the impact of alcohol on all citizens, and particularly those with mental illness across the UK; the other, how we could come together more around suicide prevention strategies. I also hope that via one of the Academic Faculty Executive members, I have stimulated the Academic Faculty to come back to me with the nuts and bolts of what we should be doing as a College, to ensure that there is a future generation of doctor-psychiatrists who are excellent researchers, leading the field. I wish to pursue this because I believe it to be really important. For those of you who didn’t read it, this was part of my election pledge and statement.

You never know what you are going to arrive back to when you land at Heathrow. And of course I watched the 6 o’clock news, which informed us that, not unexpectedly, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives are now opposing the Health and Social Care Bill. Next week, I plan to send out a final survey about the Bill to our members. I realise I risk survey fatigue, but this matter is so important - not only to all psychiatrists and health professionals in England, but to those in the rest of the UK because of potential knock-on effects.

Yesterday, I met with one of the Secretary of State’s special advisors about the Bill. I hope that our discussions will lead to reassurances that the consistent concerns we've expressed about the Bill are being listened to, and that there will be some concrete, measurable outcome arising from the huge amount of work we have done to evidence our concerns.

Whatever the outcome of this piece of legislation, I think it is very important to stress that the Bill itself has been (not wishing to in any way be accused of plagiarism by taking the words of Professor Nick Craddock!), a wake-up call for the NHS and all health professionals. And whatever the outcome of ongoing discussions, our College will continue to do its work on clinical commissioning. We now have a much firmer and better relationship with the Royal College of General Practitioners, we are solidly embedded into the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, and we will not waste anything that we have learnt. The future of the NHS, which clearly has to now be in partnership with the independent sector, the voluntary sector, and social enterprise, is so important.

I had intended to make an early start this morning to compose a letter to The Psychiatrist, in response to what I thought were excellent papers by Dr Laurence Mynors-Wallis and Dr Phil Sugarman on the Health and Social Care Bill in a previous issue. But clearly, by the time such a letter would be accepted and published, it will have lost its meaning. What I do want to stress is that if you brought together the best in both those papers, including where there was consensus, this would give us a framework from which the College could play its full part in ensuring that we are able to deliver best mental health services to all patients, and to drive up and improve public mental health.

I have been asking myself the question: Is the Health and Social Care Bill fundamentally flawed? We, as doctors, have an obligation to practise least harm. Therefore I hope you will be patient with me, and respond to what I promise you will be the last survey on the matter.



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