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

Time flies when you’re President of RCPsych

Usually the months after Christmas drag for me but this year time has flown past.

We have been busy at the College with our submission of evidence to the Mental Health Act 1983 review which is now finished.

I have been testing out our ideas with various groups of members on my travels and am pleased to see that on the whole we have captured what the majority of Psychiatrists think.

This is only the first stage of the review, there will be lots more work to do so do get in touch if you want to contribute.


Highest ever applicants

As you know we had the highest number of applicants ever to core training this year.

We aren’t resting on our laurels but are already working hard for the future. On a bitterly cold day in January I attended the National PsychSoc conference in Brighton.

Over 130 keen medical students spent their weekend listening to speakers of a calibre that wouldn’t have been out of place at any International meeting, thanks to all who gave up their time for this.

The lowlight of the weekend was the journey home which involved a rail replacement bus, the only thing that would get me on one of these is the chance to speak to so many potential recruits.

We also held an event for medical students in London where Stephen Fry talked eloquently of his own mental illness (I would just like to casually mention that he agreed to do this when we met at Buckingham Palace).

The students were enthralled. After the talk he spent time mixing with them, encouraging them to choose psychiatry and submitting to numerous selfies.


Retaining psychiatrists

Recruitment is no good without retention, so this year we will be looking at how this can be improved. We are going to do this with NHS Improvement who have already started work.

I think I know what factors are driving people out of the workforce but if you have anything you want me to address please get in touch.


Investment Standard

A piece of very good news involves the Mental Health Investment Standard (the MHIS).

Six months ago, I wouldn’t have known what this was but I’m now extremely excited by the fact that this year’s NHS Planning Guidance says that all CCGs must meet the MHIS.

The MHIS requires local areas to increase their spending on mental health services in line with their overall increase in budget allocation each year.

This means they have to invest in our services and will be audited on whether they do or not.



We have been instrumental in keeping the spotlight on mental health spending in every clinical commissioning group (CCG) and lobbying for stricter rules on how they invest in mental health services.

As a result of our efforts, we have stopped the MHIS from being scrapped.

It’s another step towards real parity of esteem for our patients.

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Re: Time flies when you’re Pre
Dear Wendy, many thanks for keeping the pressure up with the MHIS; I appreciate this is "relative good news" compared to other areas of health, but I cant help thinking we mustn't kid ourselves that this will be enough, especially for some areas of MH services. Budget allocation increases for CCGs are still likely to be below "health inflation", then added to this is the on-going relative disinvestment many older established services (e.g. many CMHTs) still endure as their annual CIP saving goes towards topping up any new investment for new services. Clearly those new services (e.g. CAMHS and Perinatal) are much needed, but do we appreciate (and does the public appreciate) that these are coming partially at the expense of large parts of the core services still struggling on unseen and underfunded?
The MHIS might mean we advance in some areas (great!), but likely means we also at best hold our territory in others, or even continue to slip backwards in key core services.
I don't want to dampen enthusiasm...keep up the good pressure, and if anything increase it to include more detailed analysis of where the money is going...and just as importantly where it isn't. Thanks!
Young retired
recently retired psychiatrists could contribute more, but deterred by appraisal, revalidation, overweening management. I wonder if this valuable resource could be better used
Student Mental Health
I have worked in Student Services in 3 London Universities over the past 11 years and I am struck by the increasing levels of severe psychopathology among the student population, often distressed by suicidal ideation. At one of the Universities where I work we have had 6 students commit suicide at the end of last year. Students are often considered to be in a privileged position and perhaps because of this very often their mental health needs go ignored. We have been attempting to raise the profile of this problem at the College, both at the GAF and at Conferences but we would welcome any suggestions on how NHS and University services can be working alonside each other to ensure that the future of these bright young people is not undermined by mental illness, when early intervention and prevention can be very effective.
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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.