Dr Clive Stanton, Volunteer, Pantang
Hospital, Ghana, 2009
The Royal College of Psychiatrists is
committed to supporting mental health care across the world,
particularly in countries that are known to suffer from an acute
shortage of psychiatrists or that have a skills gap that can have
consequences for both primary and specialist mental health
The College’s volunteer scheme aims to
facilitate contact between hospitals, clinics, projects and
communities in need of psychiatric expertise and training, and
psychiatrists who are willing to offer their time and support.
The College has a database of over 120 of its
Members that have registered to be volunteers.
These volunteers have provided details of
their skills and experiences which include curriculum development,
teaching, examining, mental health service and legislation
development, research training and mental health integration into
The database also contains details of the
languages they speak, their availability and any previous
experience they may have had as a volunteer.
As well as independently organised placements,
the College continues to work with organisations such as Challenges
Worldwide, THET and WHO to place volunteers across the globe.
Completed placements over the last year have
included the Department of Psychiatry in Ethiopia, a WHO Pacific
Island Mental Health Network placement in the Solomon Islands and a
Challenges Worldwide placement based at the Pantang Hospital in
You can view of map of completed placements
and read reports from volunteers on the volunteers homepage.
Hosting a Volunteer
Institutions that are
interested in making use of a psychiatrist in the short or medium
are invited to submit an application detailing their requirements
and specifying the range of expertise they require.
On receipt of an
application the College identifies suitable volunteers whose
skills, availability, language competence and experience match the
Once a volunteer has been
chosen the College offers assistance in making the pre-placement
arrangements with the volunteer, including mentoring and country
specific advice if necessary.
The host institution
identifies a local mentor able to offer initial induction as well
as regular contact, assistance and advice to the volunteer
throughout the placement.
A pre-placement meeting
with the volunteer, the mentor and the College co-ordinators is
then arranged to discuss details of the placement and to identify
any practical arrangements to be made.
The College maintains
regular contact with the volunteer and the host institution to
ensure that any problems that might arise are resolved quickly and
Hosting a Trainee
College Volunteers are
often senior or recently retired psychiatrists but increasingly
senior psychiatric trainees are expressing an interest in becoming
The College believes that
exposure to mental health provision models influenced by cultural
systems other than the UK NHS, as well as innovative methods of
service delivery that inadequately resourced services bring about,
are essential in shaping UK mental health experts of the
The rationale and
practical arrangements for hosting a trainee volunteer remain
largely the same as those for senior consultants.
One important difference
in this respect is supervision. A trainee placement should offer an
affiliation or formal attachment to a university department, a
hospital or the ministry of health.
This is important if any
research or audit undertaken by the visiting trainee requires
ethical or other approval.
It also ensures that
relevant organisations know about the trainee’s project so that it
does not interfere with other national programmes.
Volunteer trainees must have a local mentor –
usually either a Member or Fellow of the College, or an
individually approved senior psychiatrist.
Wherever possible, the College endeavours to
place a consultant volunteer with the trainee in the same area thus
providing opportunities for mutual support, supervision and
mentoring for the trainee.
Becoming a Volunteer
Members of the College
that are interested in registering as a College Volunteer are asked
to complete an application form detailing their skills and
They are also asked
to provide an up to date CV and details of two referees that are
able to confirm their suitability as a volunteer.
On receipt of an
application the College will write to the referees and put the
volunteer’s details on the College database.
The College will then
contact the volunteer as and when a suitable placement becomes
Senior trainees are
welcome to register as volunteers. Trainees in their penultimate or
final year of training are eligible, Trust approval permitting, for
an overseas placement approved towards their final specialist
Volunteer trainees are
required to identify a suitable mentor in the UK who has knowledge
of the country of placement and is (usually) an approved trainer in
The trainee is
expected to meet their mentor before their departure and on their
return, and to maintain fortnightly email contact throughout their
The UK programme director
monitors progress. Trainees are required to write a detailed
report about either an audit or research project or a clinical case
study, with supervision from the UK mentor.
All volunteers are asked
to provide a report on their placement on their return which will
be submitted to the International Advisory Committee and may appear
on the College’s Website.
Funding remains one of
the main difficulties both for consultant and trainee
volunteers. There are no major donors for this kind of work;
however, most of College volunteers are willing to fund most of
their own expenses.
Thanks to fundraising
efforts led by Professor Sheila Hollins in 2008 the College is able
to cover the cost of travel to and from the placement.
The College provides the
administrative infrastructure for the programme and the host
institution may, in some cases, be able to provide some assistance,
e.g. basic accommodation, a local salary, local transport,
For further details on
the College’s Volunteer Scheme or to request an application form
please contact Elen Cook the College’s International Liaison
Manager: firstname.lastname@example.org or
telephone 0207 2352351 ext. 6136.