Accessibility Page Navigation
Style sheets must be enabled to view this page as it was intended.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Tears, cheers and priorities for the next 3 years

Tears, cheers and priorities for the next three years

On 28 June in the Conference Centre in Edinburgh I became the 16th President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Since the election result in January I have been preparing to take up this role.

I will be leaving my full-time clinical post as an old age psychiatrist but will still work two days a week for Leeds and York Partnership Foundation trust.

I am really grateful for the Trust’s support which means I’ll continue to see patients which will hopefully keep me anchored to reality.


A tribute to my predecessor

Starting as President meant sadly saying goodbye to Simon.

His Presidency has been incredibly successful. He has bought huge amounts of energy, enthusiasm, wisdom and sheer hard work to the role.

He has visited every medical school in the UK and inspired a whole generation of medical students.  He has developed relationships with politicians and others in key positions and has been able to directly influence them.

He has improved the image of psychiatry in the media beyond all expectations and the College is now a leading voice in issues around Mental Health.  All this has been done apparently effortlessly and with wit and humour.

Luckily, I can’t imagine that Simon will stop the work that he is so passionate about. I am sure he will continue to champion our cause and to do all he can to support the College, and I’m counting on his help as I step into the role.


Congress: the best yet

I was in Edinburgh for the International Congress.  This has gone from strength to strength and this year’s meeting was the best yet.

My favourite session consisted of two keynote talks. The fist was from Karl Deisseroth, an American Psychiatrist, who is researching at the cutting edge of neuroscience and who has developed new techniques for studying neural circuit function.

There is no doubt that his work is laying the foundation for a proper understanding of the physical basis of mental disorders.  He is also helping us with the Gatsby Wellcome Neuroscience project which is modernising the neuroscience that we teach our trainees.

Karl’s talk was followed by one from a patient who developed a very severe postnatal illness.  Her description of her illness, the effect on her children and her relationship with the psychiatrist who eventually managed to get her well was incredibly moving. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

These two talks perfectly illustrate why we are so lucky to be psychiatrists.

The juxtaposition of the most up to date science with the moving and positive human story shows what makes psychiatry a unique and privileged career.

The whole four days of congress were filled with high quality and varied talks and sessions.  There were 2,500 delegates and I caught up with people I haven’t seen since I was a trainee.

If you weren’t fortunate enough to get to Congress, you can catch up with things – see our article Catch up with Congress.

We also launched the new College magazine RCPsych Insight with the (slightly unflattering) cartoon of myself and Simon on the front.

This is a new venture, the brainchild of our CEO Paul Rees, and we are going to trial it for a year.

Let us know what you think and if there are any particular articles you would like to see in it.


My priorities

So now I have started what am I going to do? The first thing will be to start work on my manifesto promises.

These included holding the Government to account on funding, promotion of integrated care, recruitment, retention and trainee support.

That is a massive agenda but I will do my best. I also know from my time as Dean what a huge amount of support there will be from Members and College Staff.

I am going to make it clearer how members can get involved in College roles and there will be more opportunities so please watch the posts for members area of the website. 

I know how busy everyone is but College work allows a bit of respite from the pressure of clinical work and a chance to influence patient care in a different way. I can only achieve what I want to with your help.

I also plan to visit as many places as I can to meet College members and find out what you feel the College should be doing.

I’ll be at lots of College meetings and conferences and will happily stay anywhere there is a Premier Inn so please invite me to your events. I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible in the coming months.

Professor Wendy Burn

Subscribe to this post's comments using RSS


Re: Tears, cheers and prioriti
Dear Wendy. Wish you all the best for the three years ahead.

Best wishes

Re: Tears, cheers and prioriti
Congratulations, Wendy on taking up the onerous office of the President. It is a hard job but I have every confidence in your abilities. I am sure you do not need me to say Good Luck, but I will say that any way !
I had every intention to attend the College annual conference but my mother's poor health prevented me. It seems that I really missed the talk by Karl Deisseroth; I was really looking forward to hearing about it. so be it.
Raj Kathane
Re: Tears, cheers and prioriti
Hope you achieve all you want to and more.
Re: Tears, cheers and prioriti
Re: Tears, cheers and prioriti
Hello and congratulations to you from Singapore .
Clarifying the role of international members would really help !
I look forward to your posts on the members area of the college website .
Kind regards
Psychiatry without borders
Dear Wendy,
All the very best in your role as President.

What follows here are the ABPI disclosures made by some of the speakers at the 2017 Royal College of Psychiatrists International Congress: Psychiatry without Borders:

Perhaps the College might support the introduction of sunshine legislation to the UK?

Kindest wishes
Dr Peter J Gordon
Psychiatrist for Older Adults
NHS Scotland
Re: Tears, cheers and prioriti
Distinguished President Wendy Burn,
welcome as President. I have seen 15 Presidents since I joined Psychiatry in 1965 - seven years before the Royal College of Psychiatrists was established.
I am now Emeritus NHS Consultant Psychiatrist, Visiting Professor to the Pakistan Psychiatric Society and Universities and Overseas Advisor to 22nd International Conference to be held on 17-19 November at Hotel Indus Hyderabad Sind. I understand from Thomas Kennedy that sadly you are unable to attend. Can you please send your President Message to be published in the Conference souvenir?
Re: Tears, cheers and prioriti
Congratulations, and best wishes for your management in such a responsible position.
I hope to be in your congress next year, since this year I could not attend. Birmingham is not it? See you!
Best greetings
Freedy Pagnussat (Montevideo, Uruguay)
Re: Tears, cheers and prioriti
Dear Wendy,

Belated congratulations and all good wishes for the 3 years that you will be at the helm. I am sure you will give it your all, as you have always done.

Please consider visiting India even though there are no Premier Inns!
Re: Tears, cheers and prioriti
Hi Wendy, best wishes for the years ahead in your leadership role.
I am particularly interested in how you are approaching the integrated care agenda, as our local Sunderland CCG Vanguard is actively pursuing a Multi-Specialty Provider (MCP) organisation, involving all mental health community services including Child & Adolescent, Old Age, LD and Substance Abuse. Obviously there are potential gains, as well as threats to mental health services. Would you be interested in coming to Sunderland, meeting up with the Vanguard and NTW Trust?
Also, as you know, I have 3 other declarations of interest. I am part of the Critical Psychiatry Network (CPN), a messianic Christian, and have a research interest in neuro-inflammation. These interests are relevant in your quest to bring the curriculum to be fit for the 21st century, and accommodate the hybrid community consultant post being proposed by the RCP, RCPsych and RCGP, which will be the main specialist post in integrated care / MCP.
Finally (!!), can I speak about what I see as the waste and despair of ‘assessment to death’ process including the formal risk assessments, which now appear to be largely lacking in predictive validity? Alys Cole-King is promoting co-production of (suicide) safety plans, which in old age we have informally used for a long time (under the radar). I think Alys is having a hard time getting her message across due to institutional vested interests in the college itself (my opinion only). This is a shame, as a house divided can be pushed aside very easily and become irrelevant. I think College politics in London needs more transparency, maybe your blog might contribute (through comments, not from you!)
Kind regards
(Prasanna de Silva)
Re: Tears, cheers and prioriti
Wendy - a rather belated Welcome! Here's wishing you Good Luck and enjoyment in your Presidency. I'm sure it will entail much work but will also give much happiness and satisfaction. I was so sorry not to have been able to go to the 2017 International Conference owing to previous commitments and was particularly disappointed to miss the talks on neuroscience. I attended the first Neuroscience Project Conference at the Wellcome Collection in March this year and it was fascinating and informative. Good to know how integrating modern neuroscience and psychiatry aids in better understanding mental health. Oh - I'm glad that you think service users are important too! So, here's wishing you the very best. Diane Goslar
Re: Tears, cheers and prioriti
Congratulations Wendy and we in N Ireland wish you every success in your new role.

We hope to see you soon
Add a Comment
  • Security Verification:
    Type the numbers you see in the picture below.
    Type the numbers you see in this picture.
Login - Members Area

If you don't have an account please Click here to Register

Make a Donation

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.