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

Interesting juxtapositions over the last two days

The business of the last two days has been as part of stakeholder implementation groups trying to influence the operational framework that will follow on from the mental health strategy for England. There is a good relationship with the Department of Health (DH) officials but, at least perhaps from my slightly ignorant perspective, it’s like constructing a jigsaw where you don’t know what the final picture’s going to be. And I have a slight suspicion that the manufacturers of the jigsaw don’t know either.                                      

This carried through to a really helpful meeting on the other major initiatives coming on stream next year; that of public health and public mental health. I had a very good meeting with Gregor Henderson, who is working for the DH on this. Working through our Public Health lead, Professor Kam Bhui, this is something that as psychiatrists we need to become far more active in. The College did a great deal of work on this 2-3 years ago. This work is valued, and will continue to be valuable, in how as psychiatrists we can and must influence local health and wellbeing boards.

It was a great honour and privilege to be invited to the Royal College of Physicians Harveian Oration and Dinner 2011. Held at the RCP building on Tuesday night, this was a grand occasion full of decorations, medals and good food. But the real privilege was to listen to the speaker, Dr Iona Heath, a General Practitioner who has worked in Kentish Town for over 35 years and is now President of the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Her talk was ‘Divided we fail’. It brought us back to the very roots of why we practice as doctors. In a masterly and creative way, she spoke to the challenge of the division between GPs and specialists; she spoke to the profession; she spoke of the body in terms of science and poetry, biology and biography; and finally, she spoke to the key issue of society, and how the biology of biography makes the structural violence of unjust societies of immediate relevance to us as doctors. I am very much hoping that I can persuade her to come to one of our International Congresses as I am sure that, as a critical friend of psychiatry, she has a constructive critique to make of us.

Iona concluded: "Medicine will never be a pure and simple place, but its confident interplay of opposites makes space for courage, joy, creativity and freedom, and the possibility of making the world a better place." I think it is by going back to these first principles, when sat in endless meetings, that hopefully as psychiatrists we will be able to deliver better services for our patients.


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