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

Leaving Argentina

As regular readers of this blog will know, I’ve been attending the 15th World Congress of Psychiatry in Buenos Aires this week. The meeting attracted over 14,000 psychiatrists from across the world. As well as offering a series of excellent academic sessions, the Congress has been a valuable opportunity to meet up with members from our own International Divisions. It also enabled me to meet with Presidents of other psychiatric organisations with whom we have a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

I may be wrong, but I think many RCPsych members are not aware of the amount of work we do with other psychiatric associations, and what can be achieved both through our International Divisions and the MoUs. Our international work is expertly co-ordinated by Elen Cook, our International Liaison Manager. We currently hold MoUs with 23 organisations, many of which focus on education and training, CPD online and examinations. Our Volunteer Scheme is expanding, allowing us to support other countries by facilitating 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. It would be good if more UK trainees could have experience of how services can be delivered with very limited resources in developing countries, and we are trying to have this experience better recognised and supported within training schsemes.

In Buenos Aires, I talked to psychiatrists from other countries about the UK’s recruitment difficulties. I discovered that, while other countries also face challenges in recruitment, many have developed innovative solutions. Sharing this sort of experience is very valuable. Joint sessions on recruitment and retention are already being submitted for next year’s International Congress, which takes place in Liverpool.

I also heard that mental health services in other European countries are facing serious pressures. The Netherlands, for example, is facing very significant cuts to its mental health services and European psychiatric society presidents have sent letters to the Netherlands government. These letters have been very effective, and I was very impressed by the detailed response back from their health minister which shared a remedial action plan.

Turning our attention back to the UK, I am continuing to liaise with our own Policy Unit and Public Affairs Manager about the progress of the Health and Social Care Bill. The Second Reading of the Bill in the House of Lords – the general debate on all aspects of the Bill – is scheduled to take place on 11 October, and we are briefing Peers in preparation for this.

It’s now time for me to catch my flight back to London. I’m hoping that my son-in-law, a Manchester City fan, will forgive me for bringing back Argentinean football kits for my grandsons!


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