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

Forging alliances in times of change

Last week I had a quick 24 hour turnaround to and from Vienna to be at the European Psychiatric Association meeting as part of my role on the ‘Rules of Procedure Group’ as it has changed into an association blending individual members with national societies.  I believe this will give a strong voice to psychiatry in Europe, able to reflect and respond to mental health needs across Europe.

I don't normally do" anxiety" but last week (and this) has been anxiety-provoking and dominated by progress on our move from Belgrave Square and Standon House into a new home that can house the staff from both. We need a home where we can hold examinations, receptions, lectures and where we can host meetings with other Colleges and mental health charities. We have now accepted monies for the value of the remaining lease on Belgrave Square and staff and officers have identified a potential new home. The next step - as previously agreed by those members of Council who are trustees - is to convene an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday, with our agents and solicitor on hand to advise. As soon as I know more I will let you know. Change is always challenging and finding a good home within our means was always going to involve some degree of compromise. So, we present where we are to our trustees and then let's wait and see. 

On Tuesday last I attended the Haverian oration held by the Royal College of Physicians, an annual lecture followed by a splendid dinner. The older, larger Colleges have very considerable endowments and it does show up the contrast with our own. Our founding fathers (and one of them, Thomas Bewley, was at this dinner) showed great forethought and skill in acquiring the lease for Belgrave Square.  By capitalising on the remaining value of the lease now, we should be able to afford to buy our next home outright giving the College and the members a tangible asset for the future for the very first time.

The after dinner speaker at the RCP dinner  was Chief Constable Sara Thornton of Thames Valley Police, who spoke of the future links between medical colleges and the about to be launched police college. She spoke very positively of Professor Jonathan Shepherd, who is an Honorary Fellow and friend of the college. I am writing to both because I believe there is much we could do to support their learning in the new college around mental health and every police officer’s understanding of the nature of mental illness. I have also expressed my concerns about how Section 136 of the Mental Health Act is functioning at present.  I have been inundated with emails about this and welcome any other information or feedback to report to a forthcoming multi-agency meeting about the issue, which is likely to hit the press this week.

Finally, I have had several more meetings with parliamentarians, including Education Secretary, Michael Gove, where I joined other Royal Medical Colleges to discuss concerns about the proposed new ‘safeguarding’ guidance. Hopefully this was productive, as we presented robust evidence and practical solutions.

So after the hustle and bustle of the week, I used the weekend to enjoy the relaxation of moving the endless mountain of leaves from the back garden and joined my grandson’s pleasure that he is now promoted to junior ninjas and is singing in the school choir at the Manchester Evening News arena later this year.  


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