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


Electing our new President

Voting is now open for the next President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. All Members, Fellows and Specialist Associates should have received an email from “Electoral Reform Services” on the 19 December, with your unique link to vote.

If you can’t find the email in your inbox, it may have landed in your Junk/Spam folder.

If you still cannot find it, please contact Sue Duncan on and she can arrange for Electoral Reform Services to send you another email.

Read more about the candidates below. Voting closes at 12 noon on 24 January 2017.


List of candidates:


Dr Peter Aitken - Director of Research & Development, Devon Partnership NHS Trust.

Dr Peter AitkenI am proud to be our Royal College 'Psychiatrist of the Year 2016'. We need growth in our specialty and to make a career in psychiatry the most rewarding in health care. I want to lead a confident, progressive Royal College of Psychiatrists delivering high standards of practice and service, based on evidence of quality and effectiveness. We should have competition for posts, our training schemes full and undergraduate education in psychiatry expanded.

Our current College strategy is set until 2018. The vision is to improve the lives of people with mental illness through patient-centred care, setting standards leading to excellence for individual practice and services, building our workforce, communication and engagement. I live by our values; professionalism, fairness and inclusion, research and innovation, ethical practice, lifelong learning and multidisciplinary working. 

I will concentrate on building our workforce across all our sub-specialities. We must be ready to capitalise on any expansion of medical school places in the UK and create new training opportunities appropriate to integrated health and social care systems, including with the charities and independent sector. I want to see psychiatry universally respected and valued by other agencies for bringing expertise and benefit to their work. Our patients and their families should always experience connection, compassion and continuity.

I have been a member of Council for four years and understand our College’s structures and processes. I meet regularly with the other Faculty and Divisional Chairs and understand their priorities, pressures and ambitions.

As Chair of the Faculty of Liaison Psychiatry I have worked closely with governments, NHS, Royal Colleges, media and the major charities establishing the specialty in policy. Our Faculty program has developed models of care, commissioning tools, outcome measures, an additional endorsement for old age trainees, bursaries and a credentialing pilot to enable the workforce. It is a success made possible by collective leadership and supporting many others across the College to do the work. I believe this experience and the contacts I have made can be shared across the College, strengthening our influence in policy and improving services for all people with mental health problems. 

First appointed consultant at Southwest London and St George’s, I am now Clinical Director for out of area care based in Exeter and national mental health adviser to Lifeboats. I am aware of the scale and specialist nature of practice in London and in England’s major centres and divisions and have spent time with colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to understand how the devolved nations work differs and needs to be supported by the College differently. I have talked to colleagues in the Overseas Divisions and found engagement and interest, particularly about supporting our international workforce in the UK and creating new opportunities for people to come. 

Our College is richer for the diversity of interests and talents in our membership in the UK and around the world. As President I will stand for all of us and bring College support to our work wherever we are.


Dr JS Bamrah - Consultant in General Adult and Old Age Psychiatry; Medical Director, Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust; Honorary Reader, University of Manchester.

Professor JS BamrahExperience

I have experience in several policy areas and across multi-professional and leadership domains.


I’ve served the College at several levels: Council (2004-11); Director of CPD (2007-2012; designed and delivered a modern CPD policy and online submission); Regional Adviser (2002-2007); I served the College’s and BMA’s Ethics (and other) committees for many years.



Director BMA (2016-); Council observer/member, BMA (2011-); Secondary care Consultant, Tameside & Glossop Commissioning Group (2013-16); Executive Director, Manchester Academic Health Science Centre (2013-); Trustee, African Caribbean Mental Health charity (2014-). I’ve frequently written in newspapers and featured on Radio/TV several times. I’ve advised/challenged politicians and leaders, on health matters.


Thirty-five years in the NHS and still enjoying! 

My background (born in Tanzania, did medicine in India) has affirmed my convictions for the principles of NHS. My undiminished enthusiasm for psychiatry stems from wonderful early experiences in medical school. Of course there were challenges, especially in recent years as I tried to balance aspirations of colleagues while we struggled with increasing demand and diminishing NHS budgets. I understand these pressures both as clinician and manager.

Valuing our workforce

I will address the problems of recruitment and retention of consultants, as well as the issues relating to our Staff and Associate Specialists (SAS) and International Medical Graduates. 

Consultants feel overburdened and burnt out, SAS doctors feel undervalued and frustrated by the lack of career progression, trainees are demoralised by an imposed contract and IMGs feel unwanted or nervous post-Brexit. I will work with the Registrar and Dean to strengthen our strategies.

Training priorities

My priorities as President will be to improving trainees’ morale and increase the number of doctors undertaking foundation training.

We need to increase our undergraduate and foundation year placements in psychiatry to meet demands of recruitment and ensure juniors’ training remains a priority over service delivery.


I will campaign tirelessly to ensure parity in funding.

The economic cost of mental illness to UK is £105bn, similar to the entire NHS Budget. Mental health problems cost the NHS at least £10bn each year in physical care costs alone. All four nations face similar challenges. Poor commissioning has resulted in fragmentation of services, affecting patient care. 

Acute beds

Recommendations in the Crisp report will remain a high priority and I will commission work to determine the number of beds required.

Bed numbers in psychiatry have fallen without corresponding increase in community resource. Poor access to CAMHS, adult and old age beds has become the norm. I will work to resolve this crisis.


I will work with academics on promoting research with commissioners and politicians to understand the challenges, post-Brexit.

Mental health research continues to lose out with just 5.5% of research funding going to mental health compared to a share of the total disease burden of about 23%. 


Psychiatry is the most exciting of all medical specialties. I promise to serve you well, to address the challenges we face, work on new areas of need and make parity a reality. Please support.


Dr Wendy Burn - Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist, Leeds.

Dr Wendy BurnI became a Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist in Leeds in 1990 and work fulltime in a community post.


I have been involved in postgraduate training since I started as a consultant and have held many roles in Education. I set up the Yorkshire School of Psychiatry and was the first Head of School. 



My main clinical interest is dementia. I have held a Regional leadership role in this area from 2011 and was Co-clinical Lead for Dementia for Yorkshire and the Humber Strategic Clinical Network 2013-16. I sit on National Groups for the planning of dementia care. 

On behalf of the College I have been an examiner, Senior Organiser of clinical examinations, Deputy Convenor, Regional Co-ordinator for CPD and the Deputy Lead for National Recruitment. I am currently the Co-chair of the Gatsby Wellcome Neuroscience Project. 

I was College Dean from 2011 to 2016. As Dean I led a review of the MRCPsych examination which is now more affordable, fair, valid and relevant to clinical practice. I increased recruitment into psychiatry. The extra numbers are small but against a background of fewer doctors entering specialty training. I introduced more support from the College for International Medical Graduates. The College moved from a rented unsuitable building to one that is owned and is fit for purpose at no extra cost to members. I’ve developed relationships with influential people both Nationally and Internationally. I understand how the College works and what needs to change. I value the views of members.

My priorities are:

Hold the Government to account on funding

Despite the Government’s stated target of increased mental health spending many Clinical Commissioning Groups are cutting mental health budgets in 2016/2017 as in the past two years. Money is also diverted to the third sector. We must have more funding for direct clinical care. 

Promote Integrated Care

We need to move beyond Parity of Esteem so that mental health care is not only as good as physical health care but is delivered as part of an integrated approach to health and social care. 


This has improved but needs more work. Engaging medical students and Foundation doctors is key to success.


I will support psychiatrists at every level. Our contribution must be fully recognised. I will tackle stress factors such as the lack of beds and the blame culture. I will reduce the bureaucratic load including “Clustering” for Payment by Results which is hugely time consuming but with no patient benefit. I will address the massive burden of inspection which must be made more efficient. I will help retired members who still want to contribute.


The current morale amongst trainees is the worst I have known it. I have years of experience of working with them and have their confidence.  I will ensure that they are supported and valued by the College.  

My track record demonstrates that I deliver. If elected I will work tirelessly until Psychiatry is again the interesting and rewarding profession that I love.


Professor Rob Poole - Professor of Social Psychiatry, Centre for Mental Health and Society, Bangor University.  Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, North Wales.

Professor Rob PooleRelevant Experience

I am a General Adult Psychiatrist. 

I was a Consultant in inner-city Liverpool for 16 years, followed by five years in rural Wales. 

Throughout my career, I have worked to develop good services for marginalised groups, such as homeless people and “dual-diagnosis” patients. 

My academic interests eventually led me to my current post at Bangor University, where I co-founded the Centre for Mental Health and Society in 2012.


I have published widely (the second edition of “Psychiatric Interviewing and Assessment” is in press) and I have established international collaborations, for example, a suicide prevention programme in Mysore, south India. I write a popular blog. 

I am involved in research and debate on the relationship between religion and clinical practice. Clarity over professional boundaries is the key to protecting patients.

I have experience of policy development as an adviser to bodies in England and in Wales (for example, the Law Commission). 

As Chair of the College in Wales from 2012 to 2016, I achieved significant improvement in our influence on the Welsh Government, NHS Wales, and other policymakers. I strengthened the standing of Wales within the College, including the creation of Celtic Vice-Presidents from 2015.

As Specialist Adviser for the College Invited Review Service since 2013, I have developed its work on the basis of understanding the current severe pressures on mental health services.    

As a member of the College Finance Management Committee since 2014, I have played a part in improved financial governance. I deputise for the Treasurer.


In difficult times, the President’s most important roles are to lead College policy development and to guide the tone of its public presence.

Our discipline has deep bio-medical roots but it is also an applied psychological and social science. We must assertively promote a public understanding of the full scope and effectiveness of our work. We must challenge misinformation about psychiatric treatment.

Recruitment remains a crucial issue. We must work to support retention of junior and senior psychiatrists, including those with carer or parental responsibilities.  

Sustained therapeutic relationships that take patients’ full circumstances and history into account achieve better outcomes. Continuity of care, and care pathways with fewer changes of clinician and team, would facilitate this and would improve job satisfaction for psychiatrists.

Widening social inequalities, cuts to benefits and deteriorating services are harmful. We need to challenge these to prevent mental illness and promote mental health. 

We must focus more attention on the neglected group of severely ill people with rehabilitation needs. It is shameful that we still have a disorganised “virtual asylum”, involving long fruitless stays in acute beds and widespread use of placements far from home. We must also find better ways of assisting people with common mental disorders. 

We must build on our links with patients, carers and mental health interest groups to deliver clear messages to influence policy across the UK. 

Mental illness is a public health issue that requires global responses. Despite Brexit, relationships with international colleagues are important and must be nurtured.



Dr James Warner - Consultant Psychiatrist and Honorary Reader, Central North West London Foundation Trust.

Dr James WarnerOnce upon a time, there was a Royal College.  It was run rather along the lines of a quaint country club, relying on subscriptions from members to fund its activities and relying on the volunteering and goodwill of its members to get its work done.  For a long time, this College prospered, but the world around it began to change.   

Dark forces began to assemble. Battles needed to be fought, and won.  Battles against politicians, policy makers, commissioners, research funders, clinicians in other disciplines, and the press.  All of these groups appeared biased against the work of the College, and the patients and clinicians it represented.  Despite success in raising the profile of the College, and forming alliances with other organisations, many members felt demoralised and undervalued. 


The College found it increasingly difficult to fight these dark forces.  Rather than being unified, it was divided by Divisions and Faculties. This matrix structure dissipated energy and focus.  The lack of a proper funding base undermined its ability to mount successful campaigns.  Countries outside of England that the College served always felt left out.  Slowly but surely the interests that the College sought to represent were undermined and dismantled.  As the members watched helplessly from the side-lines, services were cut, morale suffered and trainees fled from the specialty....  

But then a new College emerged.  Firstly, it became financially stronger. In common with most charities it established a professional funding team to explore alternative revenue sources. It no longer relied on member’s subscriptions for income.  

The College realised that to campaign and advocate effectively it must use some of the new revenue to employ key leaders, such as faculty chairs and the national leaders in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Working a day a week for the College, these leaders would have time and resources to harness their talents and enthusiasm, but also be accountable in their role.  Instead of ad hoc meetings once a quarter at College council, each faculty chair and national lead would meet monthly with the College Officers (and not always in London) to coordinate plans, share ideas and work together. The College became the servant of the united faculties, not their master.  

The College realised that its very survival relied on adequate numbers of trainees entering the speciality. It knew that the new dynamic structure of the College and improved status of the profession would significantly improve recruitment.

In short the College went from amateur player to professional force.  This College was able to fight effectively to combat the stigma that pervaded its world, to improve recruitment, improve services for its members, and most importantly for the patients it represented.  A College fit for the 21st Century.  

Vote for me if you want that College!  

James Warner is an old age psychiatrist, educator, academic, manager, leader and entrepreneur.


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