Tuesday, 19 June
I had a chest infection last week, which is
why I’ve been so silent on my blog. So this post will be a bit
longer than usual!
Everyone is aware of the industrial action
scheduled for this Thursday. This is a matter that the College does
not usually comment on, but I have had many queries from members
about attending mental health tribunals. I know individual
employers have been giving advice, but I did ask BMA Chair Dr
Hamish Meldrum who gave me this response to the question:
Q: I am due to be
attending a mental health tribunal or other judicial or
semi-judicial hearing on the day of action, should I
A: Yes. Mental Health Review Tribunals
(MHRTs) and other judicial or semi-judicial hearings are statutory
courts of law; failing to attend them when summoned by court will
find you in contempt of court, risking a short custodial sentence.
This legal obligation overrides the legal provisions for Industrial
Action. As such, there will be no protection for a doctor who
declines such commitment as part of Industrial Action.
It’s been a great week for improving society’s understanding of the
importance of mental health and how mental illness is treatable.
Last Thursday saw a landmark debate on
mental health in the House of Commons. Huge thanks to all those
MPs who talked so openly about their own mental illness – this one
act has already made a difference.
And yesterday, a new report from the
LSE about the importance of resource allocation to mental
health services received a huge amount of media coverage. But I am
very aware that all this is playing out against a background of
challenging times for many members out in the field. We have to
work together and support each other, for psychiatrists are the
vital link in the pathway of care for patients with mental illness,
and also in advising and leading prevention interventions.
Last Monday, the 11 June, I attended a
175th Anniversary lunch for the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund, the
leading UK charity for doctors, medical students and their
families. Dr Amit Malik, a past chair of our Psychiatric Trainees
Committee, is one of their Trustees. Held in the House of Lords, it
was a real celebration of an association that has never been more
important than in these times of ‘austerity’.
I met an amazing group of fundraisers. A
survivor of leukaemia, waiting for the return of her son from tour
of duty from Afghanistan, who raises money for research into
leukaemia and for the RMBF. She demonstrated has innate resilience
by trekking to and crossing China. Watch out for her on Saturday 8
July, as she will be carrying the Olympic torch in Bedford.
The day after, the chief executive and I met
with parents whose son had died of a physical illness while in
psychiatric care. The room was filled by their still raw pain, but
also by their tenacity and determination to make a difference. As
you know, we have made improving the physical health of our
patients a major strand of the College’s work. Dr Helen Miller and
our Centre for Advanced Learning and Conferences will be developing
training in this very important area, and I hope all our members
will prioritise this in their personal development plans.
Last Thursday, I attended a meeting of the
Group for National Specialised Services (AGNSS). It
was a very heavy agenda, discussing serious business about the
future of nationally commissioned services and considering the use
of new drugs for rare conditions. This is one of the most difficult
but intellectually stimulating meetings I go to – absorbing complex
scientific data, looking at ethical frameworks and, in the brave
new world, making hard decisions in a cost benefit context.
Council met on Friday, and we had two really
splendid presentations from the College Centre
for Quality Improvement and the National Collaborating Centre for Mental
Health. We heard of activities and outcomes which, through
effort and innovation led by Dr Mike Crawford and Professor Tim
Kendall, the College should be rightly proud of. I have determined
that we should make the outside world very much more aware of the
work these parts of the College family carry out. But they can't do
this without the help of each and every member who sits on
guideline groups and/or belongs to CCQI networks.
We also said goodbye and thank you to several
Council members at the meeting, and I am personally very grateful
for the huge amount of work they all do. Included among them was
Raymond Brookes-Collins, who has been a wonderful Chair of the
Carers Forum. I look forward to presenting him with a President’s
Medal in recognition of his achievements at next month’s
Speaking of the Congress, it appears that we
will have an excellent attendance this year in Liverpool. If you
haven’t booked to attend so far, there is still time to sign up.
On Saturday, I attended a meeting of BIPA, the British Indian Psychiatric
Association. As always, it was a robust scientific conference,
but with a family atmosphere and warm hospitality. I learnt of
an inspiring project in
India working with the most severely mentally ill on minimal
resources and with good outcomes. Sadly I couldn’t stay over
on Saturday night, but I understand there are some good photos of
the President Elect of the World Psychiatric Association and the
And finally, an update on my roof. Last week, I was told the job
was done and a bill was sent out to me. I was minding my own
business on Saturday evening when I heard a ‘plip plop’. I’ve
decided that the roof has been sent to test out my
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