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

College at the centre of debate. Mental health at the heart of the NHS

Following the successful trip to Brighton, the second leg on the College’s party conference roadshow took me home to Manchester for a series of meetings and discussions with Parliamentarians, local councillors, healthcare colleagues, voluntary sector organisations and others.


Welfare reform was high on the agenda and we raised the concerns of the College’s service users and carers with all the Parliamentarians that we met. It would seem that most MPs postbags are full of letters and emails from concerned constituents worried about the effect that changes to the benefits system will have on them and their families.@ Labour party conference


We were also able to outline the work the College and others have been doing on focusing attention on the need for parity for mental health and how to make this a reality. There seems to universal recognition that not enough emphasis has been placed on mental health, both in terms of funding and its importance in relation to the wider public health system.


Education and training for medical professionals was another issue we discussed and it was interesting to debate the GMC's recent report into medical education and practice.


There was some fascinating debate at the roundtables that we held and attended on a wide range of issues, including obesity, early intervention and the importance of local government.


As with the all the conferences, we’re trying to ensure that issues around mental health are raised at every opportunity, and the fringe meetings have been an excellent way to hear what politicians are thinking. The importance of good mental health for both individuals and wider society is being recognised and we are determined to be at the centre of this debate for the sake of our patients and our profession.


In his speech today Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham placed a great deal of emphasis on the integration of health and social care and the idea of a ‘whole-person’ approach to healthcare, which he discussed when we met him on Monday.  He said to the conference hall today that whole-person care was “the best route to an NHS with mental health at its heart, not relegated to the fringes, but ready to help people deal with the pressure of modern living”.


Yesterday, Labour leader Ed Miliband reaffirmed Labour’s commitment to repealing the Health and Social Care Act, a theme echoed by Andy Burnham today, and it will be interesting to hear more about the details of Labour’s proposals as the rhetoric of keynote conference speeches begin to be fleshed out into specific policies.


A skill that I had forgotten, and which was such a necessity at party conference, was the ability to turn crowded hotel lobbies (where many of the discussions with MPs and Peers take place) into impromptu meeting rooms. I continue to be impressed by colleagues' abilities to magic chairs, seemingly from thin air, and hold onto tables despite the number delegates hovering for prime spots.


It won’t surprise anyone to hear that, it being Manchester, the rain was out in force but thankfully my roof is holding up.  My work in the College continues this week and then to Birmingham for Conservative conference...


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