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

Parity for mental health

I watched yesterday's events in the House of Lords with great interest. And was of course delighted when Peers backed - by a margin of 4 votes - an amendment to place an explicit dury on the Secretary of State to promote parity of esteem between mental and physical health services. I'd like to thank all those Peers who spoke so eloquently about the need to recognise the importance of mental health, and those who voted in favour of the amendment.

I recently wrote to the American Psychiatric Association, asking for information about mental health "parity" in the United States. They sent me a memorandum prepared for a meeting at the White House in 2009 and a presentation on the 2008 Mental Health Parity law. Although the situation here is very different to that in the US, I thought you may like to see the documents and reflect on what American psychiatrists have been fighting for.

It has been an extremely busy week. On Tuesday I joined clinicians and academics at the Warneford Hospital, where Professor John Geddes chaired a meeting on ‘Leadership’. Dr Phil Davison gave an entertaining and informative account of the role, purpose and function of the College, and I presented a few thoughts on leadership. Then followed a very informed discussion and debate on key issues, ranging from - inevitably - the Health and Social Care Bill, but more particularly the future of academic psychiatry and how there could be a clearer, more certain pathway for trainees and young consultants to have an academic career. There was also discussion about where future postgraduate education would be placed.

On my way out of the grounds, it was great to see the new build emerging for the Tier 4 adolescent inpatient CAMHS unit. Phil Davison is always one to keep you busy, and therefore I was able to meet him and colleagues at the railway station to discuss further ideas about the College’s sustainability plan, and in particular how we might be able to find and fund a Clinical Fellow to take this work forward within the College.

I was also in Parliament this week to be part of the Joint APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) on reform of care and support, where the joint care APPGs, although having different focuses, had reached a consensus on top priorities. It got me thinking about the way we work across Faculties and Divisions, because although the groups were different they have things in common. So what are the APPGs? Well there is one on Aging and older people; Complex needs and dual diagnosis; Carers; Dementia; Disability group; Housing and care for older people; Learning disability; ME; Multiple sclerosis; Parkinsons; and Social care. It struck me that across the Faculties we could be doing more work on key areas that we have in common, in particular around the dilemma on housing and how such groups could have more of their medical care in their home rather than being hospitalised.

Tuesday evening saw me at a dinner at the Royal College of Anaesthetists. As well as being a good dinner, we heard from the QC, who has been leading the West Staffordshire investigation and inquiry, that the report is due soon. But it was indeed a very sobering and thoughtful after dinner speech.

Yesterday, I went to a medicine sector roundtable on social mobility. Alan Milburn was appointed the independent reviewer on social mobility and child poverty, and he will be reporting in the spring on what progress government, employers and professional bodies have made in improving access to professional careers, since the publication the 2009 report Unleashing Aspiration by the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions. This was a good opportunity to tell him about the work that many of you are doing as part of the recruitment drive in secondary schools, where we are trying to reach out to those young people who may never have considered a career in medicine, and certainly not in psychiatry.



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