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

Visit to Cape Town

I am at my last day of a fascinating conference hosted by the Colleges of Medicine in South Africa (CMSA). As College President I receive many invitations to attend international conferences. I have to choose carefully what to go to, not only because of time constraints, but because of the associated financial costs to the College.

This meeting is unique as it is across medicine, and is hosted by the equivalent of the Academy of Royal Medical Colleges in the UK. Professor Zabow, a psychiatrist and long-standing friend of our College, is their Honorary Treasurer. Doctors from across the world are having time to think about key issues for the whole of medicine, not just our speciality silos. It has been a real eye opener.

With commonalties across medicine with psychiatry, and differences in equal measure, the topics covered in depth include:

  • an understanding of how Colleges run and reciprocity with other Colleges
  • revalidation
  • examinations including process, harmonisation, reciprocities and the need for exit exams
  • litigation.

This was a sombre listen, with escalating claims in all specialities across the world. Medical Education /Research, Medical Migration and collaborative support for the development of Health Care and Education in the developing world have also been on the agenda.

I have made productive contacts and agreed joint actions with psychiatrists in South Africa, and have opened up an exciting dialogue with colleagues from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada who are starting work with Michael Marmot on social determinants of health.This dovetails well with the work which we are doing as a College, together with Dinesh Bhugra in his WPA role, with Michael Marmot on social determinants and mental health. So I think this will stand us in good "health " for what will come out of Public Health England, and how as psychiatrists we can best influence Health and Well-being Boards and Local Commissioning Boards. There is already a lot of active work in this area in Wales and Scotland.

It was very humbling to be made, on your behalf, a Honorary Fellow of the CMSA, given the role and work of other new Fellows from across medicine, but also given that one of their Honorary Fellows is Nelson Mandela. This takes me back to my memory of rushing across London, when I was Registrar, to see this frail figure, but so strong of spirit, planting a tree in a London park.

P.S. Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited.


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