Back to Team Members
Professor Dame Sue Bailey

Professor Dame Sue Bailey


Professor Dame Sue Bailey was President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists from 2011 to 2014.

A devoted Mancunian, (look closely at College Portrait), nurtured by loving emotionally intelligent working-class parents whose families were characterised by a long line of strong intelligent women who because of carer roles whilst in their teens, could not take benefit of what I was to have, a Grammar School and University Education. A graduate of Manchester University (1968-1973). I knew early on psychiatry, a unique bridge across medicine, neuro and social science was the career for me. Supported by Professors David Goldberg and Richard Harrington and a fantastic clinical team as a Consultant (1983–2015).

I was fortunate to become a pioneer of adolescent forensic mental health regionally, nationally, and internationally. Serving an ill understood stigmatised and often severely traumatised patient group. I added policy and research skills to my clinical toolkit and was joined with like-minded professionals across health, social care, education and justice to more effectively shape policy, learning to use evidence base to lobby with passion and respect, to offer solutions but above all to lobby in partnership with patients working across diverse systems.

Collegiality matters being supported but hopefully giving back (1980–2000), sequentially as elected member of Trainees Committee, Forensic Faculty, Child Faculty Deputy Registrar (1996-1999), Chair Child Faculty (2000–2004), Registrar (2005–2010), and President (2011–2014).

As President was able to work as part of such a supportive team, using what life had taught me, seize opportunities, have clear aims and achievable action plan, always take a values-based–social justice approach. For many years there had been ongoing debate about whether and how to find and own a new home for the College. A real team effort saw the realisation of a move from Belgrave Square to Tower Hill. It has been with a real sense of joy. I have seen our new family home provide a much better environment for members and staff and our ability to hold, education, training and celebratory events.

Less promising was the spectre of health and social care legislation for England that many of us saw as threatening the very founding principles on which the NHS had been built. With any policy that leads to legislative change comes the opportunity to piggy-back positive change. This time to have parity for mental health enshrined in legislation (2012). The concept was and to some extent remains poorly understood but was well understood by mental health sector partners, especially the voluntary sector. Standing together the College with partners won the battle. Parity is there to and has been used to argue for improved funding, mental health legislation and long overdue improved outcomes for those with neurodiversity and learning disability. Part of tackling inequalities.

Choosing Wisely–after role of President, Professional bodies Chair Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (2015–2017), Chair Child and Adolescent Section UEMS

Public Sector

Senior Mental Advisor to Health Education England (2014-2018), External Advisor to Minister of Health and Social Care. Review of CAMHS (2016-2019), NED DHSC Board (2017-2020), NED Manchester University Foundation Trust (2017-current), Independent Chair New Roles in Mental Health working groups (2019–current), Member Council Salford University (2017-current).

Voluntary Sector

Chair of Children's and Young People's Mental Health Coalition (2014–2018), Chair Centre for Mental Health (2018-current), Chair Advisory Board Autistica (UK).

Branching out

Independent NED – Mental health online platform KOOTH (2020-current)

An approach hopefully of where and how I can add value in closing the absurd mind/body dualism to improve physical health of those with mental illness and vice versa – equally well. Bringing parity to those with learning disability and neurodevelopmental disorders. Realistic solutions to mental health workforce, different ways of working utilising the voluntary sector those with lived experience, empowering populations to support community mental health and resilience, working with emotional intelligence to best use AI. For the future the hope even in times of challenge we can best use social scaffolding to ensure the children of today can become the adults of 2035 who can be supported to in turn become the supportive creative mentally resilient workforce and parents, part of a health creating sustainable society. I would rather travel in hope than fear.


Reflecting on the portrait of Professor Dame Sue Bailey

As part of a project to try to better understand the RCPsych presidents’ portraits, we have interviewed past presidents and the artists who painted them. 

Read more about the portrait of Professor Dame Sue Bailey

Read more to receive further information regarding a career in psychiatry