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

New year, and an even more resolute RCPsych

Each year we see January as a fresh start and make resolutions to improve ourselves. These usually include taking more exercise and eating less in an attempt to undo the damage done by Christmas.

This year please remember your mental health as well as your physical. Psychiatry can be stressful so look after yourself and be sure that you set aside some time for relaxation. I can hear those who know me sniggering but I’m determined to set a good example (also, for the record, Twitter isn’t work).

My resolutions for 2018 include working on three major areas with the College:

  • Recruitment

  • retention

  • the Mental Health Act 1983 Review.

Huge amounts of energy already go into recruitment. I’m delighted to say that we have had the highest number of applicants ever for core training this year, but we can’t afford to rest on our laurels and will keep on with the #ChoosePsychiatry campaign.

We need to make sure that as many medical students and Foundation doctors experience Psychiatry as possible so that they see what a great career it is.


Training, retaining

While we are busy telling the outside world how interesting it is to train as a psychiatrist, we also need to work to make sure that trainees, specialty and associate specialist (SAS) doctors and consultants stay in the profession.

The College is holding a workshop with Health Education England at the end of the month to firm up arrangements for the implementation of the workforce plan that came out last summer.

When I speak to trainees and members in different parts of the UK the same themes come through repeatedly.

Trainees want to be treated with consideration. This means thought being given to where they live when placements are allocated, access to food and rest when on call and ability to take leave for important events when they give reasonable notice. Or in other words, to be supported and valued (PDF) as the Psychiatric Trainees’ Committee has set out.

Fortunately, our trainees already report being treated better than most specialities, via the GMC national training survey, but there is still room for improvement.

Consultants and SAS doctors describe a lack of resources but also a blame culture and excessive bureaucracy. These issues must be tackled to improve morale and increase retention.


Mental Health Act review

The College is about to submit evidence for the review of the Mental Health Act 1983. This will feed into the interim report of the review, expected to be published in spring this year, and will be posted on our website soon if you want to read it.

The whole of the morning of the January Council meeting was devoted to discussing key areas relating to the review.

Some very useful points were made and we came to a consensus. The College will be working closely with the review team and you can continue to feed in your opinions:

We will keep you informed as the Review progresses.

All of us at the College wish you a very Happy New Year.

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Professor Wendy Burn

Professor Wendy Burn FRCPsych


Professor Wendy Burn became a consultant old age psychiatrist in Leeds in 1990 and now works fulltime in a community post. Her main clinical interest is dementia.

She has 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 between 2013 and 2016.