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

The President's Blog

RSS Logo RSS 2.0
20/06/2018 16:53:58

A magical month, even without a Tardis

This last month has been spent in the UK which is something of a relief after my recent travels to the other side of the world. The furthest I have been is Belfast.

Warm weather and a warmer welcome

While there I was lucky enough to be shown around Clifton House, the Head Quarters of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Northern Ireland.

This was originally built as a poor house in the 18th century and has some fascinating artefacts and stories about people who lived there. If you go to Belfast please do book yourself onto a tour.

I also met members who were there for meetings and talked to a group of trainees about the Neuroscience Project.

The sun shone brightly (I bring it with me) and the welcome was even warmer. I look forward to returning there.

A President and Prince

A big excitement was a trip with a group of College staff and volunteers to Buckingham Palace for a garden party to celebrate the 70th birthday of Prince Charles, our patron.

It was a beautiful afternoon and we walked in the gardens and beside the lake to the sound of a brass band.

Sri Kalidindi (ex-chair of the Faculty of Rehabilitation and Social Psychiatry) was our VIP representative and was in the front row in an eye catching red dress which can be clearly seen in the photos of the event which went viral.

Nice to see Psychiatry take a position at the forefront…

Improving our learning

I spent a day near home in the North of England when I made a trip to Durham for a meeting of the Northern Alliance of Trusts to talk about how we can improve our ability to learn from those very sad occasions when our patients die.

I shared the work the College is doing on Learning from Deaths and heard of the progress being made in different Trusts. We need a way of ensuring that learning is shared across the whole of Mental Health Services and I’m keen that the College supports this.

I also visited Chester to talk about my priorities as President. I caught up with some old friends and made some new ones.

It’s really helpful for me to get out and about and to check that the College is truly representing the views of its members so please do invite me to your meetings and your Trusts.

Fighting for parity

Back in London, the Prime Minister announced that the NHS in England would get an average three point four percent funding increase above inflation for five years, with increases in the devolved nations too.

Even better, she highlighted mental health services as a priority for the increased spending.

College Officers and staff have been working really hard to make the case for Mental Health and we look forward to working with the Government and NHS England to ensure that this money is well spent and that Mental Health Services are funded to the same standard as physical health.

One very good piece of news is that the Government sees research into Mental Health as a priority area and is keen to engage with us to take this forward.

Choose psychiatry!

This month we have relaunched our Choose Psychiatry recruitment campaign. Last year the success of this saw the number of core trainees starting with us in August up by a third from last year.

We really need to maintain this expansion. Please continue to do all you can to encourage medical students and Foundation doctors to join us.

We have updated the heart-warming film which shows the positive benefit we bring to our patients.

Magical Fellows

The best event of the whole month was the first ever New Fellows evening to be held at the College.

This was a magical evening. First, we heard a little about each Fellow and the amazing things they had done. Each Fellow bought a guest with an age range of 11 to 86.

Then we all sat down to dinner together and enjoyed the wonderful food from the College catering team. I was honoured to be able to celebrate with a group of people who have done so much for our patients.

Congress round the corner

As I write this there are just a few days to go to the International Congress in Birmingham, the biggest event in the College calendar.

The programme looks fantastic, I have no idea how I am going to get to all the talks I want to hear or how to choose between them.

From cutting edge neuroscience, to Joanna Cannon the best-selling author talking about her books, to Jonny Benjamin, an award-winning mental health campaigner talking about his own experiences of mental illness, the range and variety of sessions is infinite.

Oh for a Tardis!

I have been asking (in vain) for a Tardis since I started, what I need for congress is a Time-Turner like the one that enabled Hermione Granger to take every subject available in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by going back in time and choosing a different lesson to attend. That would be perfect for Congress. 

If you are going I’m sure you will enjoy it. Please come and say hello.  Catch me as I walk past or contact me by email or Twitter. I’m looking forward to meeting many of you there.

Professor Wendy Burn

22/05/2018 14:01:21

Talking psychiatry in three time zones – and meeting Larry the Downing St cat

This past month has definitely been the most exciting since I started as President.

I frequently get asked if I enjoy the role. It’s hard to know what to say.

The truth is that it’s an incredible privilege, that I’m constantly out of my comfort zone and I never know what will happen next.

So “enjoyable” doesn’t really cover it...

This month I’ve not just been out of my comfort zone, I’ve been in entirely different time zones.


Taking Neuroscience to the Big Apple

My first stop in a very international month was New York to attend the American Psychiatric Association Annual Meeting.

I was there to talk about the Gatsby Wellcome Neuroscience project and also about how we as a College work with the government to develop policy in the UK.

The Neuroscience project was really well received and prompted lots of interesting comments and questions from the audience.

The one that really stood out for me was from an American trainee who said that he and a group of colleagues had been teaching themselves neuroscience from online resources and would like this to be formalised.

This of course is exactly what we are already doing in the UK!

If you are involved in delivering training and want to learn more about how to teach the latest in neuroscience please keep up with our next Braincamp in Birmingham on 1 June.

Also have a look at the short video “Connecting brain and mind” from the 2018 Spring Neuroscience conference in Cambridge. Look out for full videos of talks from the conference which will be available soon.



There was fascinating feedback and discussion on the policy talk I gave.

The other speakers and the audience came from many different countries but nowhere had the access to the key decision makers that we enjoy.

Indeed, in the USA you sometimes even have to pay politicians if you want to meet them. We are very lucky that our democratic system and the respect with which the College is held allows us opportunity to influence at the top.

And influence at the top was exactly what I had to do at very short notice.

I had to fly back early from New York to attend a dinner at 10 Downing Street to talk about the future of the NHS together with the Presidents of the other Royal Colleges. It seems likely that there will be some good news on this soon.


Purr-fect visit

We were entertained in the State Drawing rooms and it was hard for me to believe that I was a visitor in a place where so many influential and important events have taken place.

One of the items of discussion was the interim report of the Independent Review of the Mental Health Act, led by Simon Wessely.

This is well worth reading, though it contains no surprises, and reflects the need for improvement in the care we provide for detained patients.

We (meaning many members across a range of College Faculties) will continue to collaborate closely with Simon’s team over the next few months to help develop solutions in the areas identified as needing work.

And did I mention that I met Larry the cat? The evening was purr-fected by the resident cat in Number 10, Larry. Not only did I get a photo of him outside on my way in, when I left he was curled up in the hall and he let me stroke him.


To the Southern Hemisphere

After a quick 24 hour turn around at home to do the laundry and to stroke my own cats I was off again. This time to New Zealand to attend the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) Congress in Auckland.

While there I took part in a ‘Women in Leadership’ symposium chaired by RANZCP President, Dr Kym Jenkins. Myself and three other women were on stage to be asked questions.

This was rather nerve racking but to my surprise I actually enjoyed it. Even better was the conference dinner where we were treated to a traditional Māori haka or war dance.


College successes on the home front…

Back in the UK the College team, staff and volunteers have been hard at work. In particular the Perinatal Faculty, headed up by Trudi Seneviratne, has had some notable events.

The first of these is the change in the licence for Valproate, used to treat bipolar disorder, so that it can no longer be prescribed to women of child-bearing potential unless she is on a pregnancy prevention programme.

This is because children born to women who take Valproate during pregnancy are at significant risk of birth defects and persistent developmental disorders.

It is important that all clinicians are aware of this and that all women are better informed about the risks of Valproate. We will be working with other Royal Colleges and government bodies to make sure changes are implemented and affected women are supported.

There has also been huge progress in the provision of Perinatal services. Seven thousand more women have received specialist support for perinatal mental illness from expanded services.

As part of this we have worked closely with NHS England and HEE to deliver a perinatal bursary scheme to train up more psychiatrists to become perinatal specialists. 100% of the psychiatrists who completed this now have, or will have, perinatal consultant psychiatric jobs in their local areas which is fantastic.

This, together with the new wave of targeted funding, will help ensure that new and expectant mothers will be able access specialist perinatal community services in every part of England by April 2019.

This is a great example of how extra funding, innovative thinking and determination enables improvement in psychiatric services.

Here’s hoping that before too long there will be more good news on the financial front.

19/04/2018 12:29:32

Working conditions, world-leading mental health legislation and work to combat racism

Very unusually I’m writing this blog in my NHS clinic room, as one of my patients has cancelled his appointment.

I still do one day a week of clinical work. This keeps me firmly in touch with reality and away from any ivory towers.


The view from the NHS

Back to the NHS. My clinic room used to be a cupboard and has no windows. I’m delighted that summer seems to have suddenly arrived, but this means that the broken radiator that won’t turn off is more of a problem than usual.

I need to arrive half an hour before the clinic starts. Why? To allow the computer to warm up of course, and to remember all my various passwords. The computer monitor only works if it’s at exactly the right angle and there’s that moment of fear every week that this might be the day it gives up the ghost.

The room I use would benefit from a coat of paint. The chairs are old and mismatched. There are no pictures on the wall. 

None of this is the fault of the trust I work for, it’s a result of the constant need to save money year on year. It’s due to putting patient care above buildings, to spending money on staff rather than paint or chairs.

If you’ve worked in the NHS as long as I have you will have become used to shabby surroundings and like me, will hardly notice them.

But today I did see them and can’t help wishing we could do something better. How much difference does the environment make when you are visiting a psychiatrist? I think it might be more than we realise…


Over to Belfast

As well as my clinical work I have had another busy month with conferences and member events. I went to Belfast where the first President’s Lecture ever to be held outside London was delivered by Sue Bailey.  

She covered new approaches to prevention and sustainability in the care we deliver. As always, she was interesting, thought provoking and inspiring. You can watch her talk on the college website. 

I then attended the Northern Ireland Spring Meeting which was brilliantly organised by Gerry Lynch, Chair of RCPsych NI and his team.

The subject was the Mental Capacity Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 which is due to be introduced and will cover both physical and mental health. The room was so packed that it really was standing room only unless you arrived early.

I know this won’t be straight forward and I’m not underestimating members’ concerns around implementing the new Act, but I can’t help feeling that this is the way forward.

NI psychiatrists will be on the same footing as any other doctors in deciding when to treat someone who is not consenting, a further step towards treating patients with physical and mental illnesses equally.

I know that we all in England, Scotland and Wales (and further afield, no doubt) will be watching closely how things in NI progress.

Important steps forwardOther exciting events over the past month have been the issuing of two College statements. The first of these was on racism.

Racism is one area where there has been a dramatic improvement in the time I have worked in the NHS but there is still a long way to go. The statement is the first step in the College’s plan to improve things, the next step is to work on ensuring action is taken.

The second statement was on supporting transgender and gender-diverse people.

This is another area where work is much needed and will be done. Thanks to all the people who contributed to getting these statements completed.

I look forward to working with members and with other organisations to ensure that the important recommendations are followed through.


Cambridge, at last

My latest conference was the Gatsby Wellcome Neuroscience Spring meeting in Cambridge.

As someone who grew up in Oxford, you won’t be surprised that I’ve been ingrained with the belief that Cambridge was a pretty poor sort of a place but this turned out to be completely wrong.

It is actually lovely with beautiful buildings and a wealth of history, as I’m sure you know. 

The most interesting thing was the Corpus Clock,  worth a visit in itself.

The conference was fascinating with research so new that it hasn’t been published yet and some very interesting sessions on the theory that inflammation may be what underlies depression.


Keep on Choosing Psychiatry

Being back in a University setting made me all the more conscious of routes to becoming a psychiatrist. Before our next set of new trainees even start, we begin the new round of our recruitment campaign, Choose Psychiatry. 

We will be working hard on this centrally but what really attracts people into our profession is all of you. Please do fly the flag for our specialty. Let trainees and students see what a rewarding career Psychiatry is.

A particular part of the first campaign’s success was the willingness of psychiatrists up and down the country to record short clips on ‘why I chose psychiatry’ to share on social media.

It really created a buzz and I loved seeing so many of you talk about your passion for our work.

We’re after your support again from May onwards this year and I look forward to seeing your contributions.

20/03/2018 13:48:50

Beast from the East can’t prevent progress for President and RCPsych

I've learnt three things in the past few weeks.

Conferences are like buses - they all come along at once; prisons are fascinating, and our members are doing great work there, even in difficult conditions - but I don't want to be in one; and, as much as I hate to admit this, it turns out that the tube really does come in handy in a blizzard.

My first conference was the Forensic Faculty’s annual meeting. Despite the Beast from the East attempting its worse everything went smoothly in Nottingham thanks to the excellent work of Pamela Taylor, Chair of the Forensic Faculty, and her team.

I was particularly interested in a talk about prisons but pictures of cells made me determined not to end up in one. 

Next for me was a journey back to London during “Storm Emma”.

After complaining endlessly about the unreliability, the heat and the crowds of the London tube since I have been spending so much time in the capital I have to concede that in snow it comes into its own. 


Fostering European links

Then it was over the Channel to Nice for the European Psychiatric Association (EPA) meeting. Don’t be too jealous.

Although Nice was free of snow, it was cold, wet and miserable. Luckily the company wasn’t!

I caught up with the Presidents of other Psychiatric organisations and was able to compare how we practice.

I’m conscious that now more than ever, it is essential to foster European links wherever we can.


Lessons from Europe

I also heard about the first “Massive Open Online Course” (MOOC) the EPA is set to launch, an introduction to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

This free online course will be open to an unlimited number of participants, and available in open access via the web.

The MOOC will provide course materials such as mini-lecture videos and recommended readings, as well as interactive user forums.

You can sign up to the MOOC: it starts on Monday 9 April.


MindEd for Older People

Nice to Newcastle was next for the Old Age Faulty meeting. I spoke on International Women’s Day and was introduced by Amanda Thompsell, who is doing a great job as Chair of the Faculty.

I was able to show a sneak preview of MindEd for Older People which launches on 28 March.

This is an online resource with advice and guidance aimed at older people with mental health difficulties (other than dementia) and their families.

The two Faculty conferences gave me a chance to catch up with members. The overwhelming messages to me were how hard it is on the frontline and how desperately we need more funding and a larger workforce.

Back at the College the staff and members have been working to make progress on both these issues.


Campaigning College

The HEE mental health workforce plan committed to an extra 100 consultant CAMHS psychiatrists by 2021, this is the number needed to deliver the Five Year Forward View. 

Although the pilot run through training programme in CAMHs has increased recruitment dramatically we can’t train enough Consultants to meet this target, especially given a 6.3 per cent drop in the number of specialist child psychiatrists in the last four years.

So we have been pressing the government to add CAMHS consultants to the shortage occupation list to enable us to recruit from overseas more easily. 

Without more CAMHS psychiatrists, we are worried that it will not be possible to deliver the potential benefits within the recent government green paper on children and young people’s mental health, particularly a four week waiting time target. We also performed an analysis of the money going to Mental Health Trusts over the past few years.

You won’t be surprised to learn that this research showed that Mental Health Trust income is lower now than it was in 2011/12.

NHS England were eager to respond to these findings and to assure us that this is changing, that we have turned the corner, and that things will improve.  

I really hope that this is true. 


“Allocated money must be spent on mental health”

RCPsych has and continues to support NHSE England in its role in implementing the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health.

But to do this we need to ensure that every penny of the extra money allocated for mental health is spent on our services.

We need to be able to track the money to the frontline far more clearly so that we can hold commissioners to account for how they allocate funding.  At the moment this is very difficult to do and we are calling for a more transparent system.

The College will be watching the money carefully in the months to come and will be holding the government to account if things don’t change for the better.
16/02/2018 16:03:16

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.

16/01/2018 16:24:48

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.

15/12/2017 11:40:15

Cheer at the end of the year

There have been some worrying moments in the past month when it looked as if the extra money for mental health was hanging in the balance.

But, I’m pleased to say, we campaigned hard openly on social media and behind the scenes, and fortunately Simon Stevens confirmed his commitment to our funding.

As I go about the UK I am hearing of places where new money is helping, particularly in Perinatal and Liaison services.

I am also aware of concerns that our workforce is moving into these new services and away from our community teams and the wards which can’t do without them. We will be watching this carefully.


Success in Wales

A highlight of the month was a trip to Swansea to speak at the RCPsych in Wales and the Welsh Psychiatric Society joint meeting.

Even the people on the ticket gates at the station were friendly, the sun shone brightly (apparently it always does in Swansea), I tasted deep fried cockles for the first time and the academic content was varied and interesting.  I will definitely be returning.


Good news and a big thank you

I’m not allowed to share the numbers with you but there is some exceptionally good news about how many applications we have had to core training this year. 

Of course, there is a long way to go before we know how many will actually join us next August but things are looking hopeful.

A big thanks to everyone who helped with the Choose Psychiatry campaign this year.

The College recruitment campaign will only work if Psychiatrists on the frontline show medical students and Foundation Doctors what a fantastic job we have, despite the struggle with lack of resources – many of you volunteered your time to help us this year and we will need more of the same in 2018. 

There was also an overwhelming response to our pilot of CAMHS run-through training. Again, I can’t give you the numbers but it makes getting a surgical post look easy...


Gathering momentum

The review of the Mental Health Act is gathering momentum and they have put out a call for evidence.

We will use the Membership survey results to inform our response and will devote the whole of the morning of the January Council meeting to discussing this.

Two particular areas where we need to clarify our position are on whether we believe the Act should be based primarily on Capacity or on Risk, and the use of CTOs.

You can feed in your opinions directly using the email address or via your Faculty and Divisional reps on Council.


Season’s greetings

As always at this time of year Christmas is approaching fast and will be here before we know it.

I’m very grateful to all those who will be working over the holiday to keep our services going, I hope that you get some time to relax with your families.

From all of us at the College we wish you a very Happy Christmas and all the best for 2018.


17/11/2017 13:52:54

Awarding times, rewarding times

I recently attended my first College Awards evening as President, along with some 300 guests working in psychiatry. The evening, hosted by musician, journalist and Church of England priest columnist and presenter, The Reverend Richard Coles, was a lovely celebration of success which is something we don’t do enough of.

An Honorary Fellowship was presented to Alastair Campbell the political strategist, writer and dedicated mental health campaigner.

Alastair later presented Rob Poole with a Lifetime Achievement Award and I was honoured to be able to interview Rob. Most of you will be aware of his huge contribution to social psychiatry but you may not know, as I uncovered on the night, that he is a talented musician and blogger.

See the full list of the award winners.


Re-visiting the past, looking to the future

The last few weeks have been busy traveling to various conferences and meetings.

I made my third visit to Bournemouth since I started as President to attend the Faculty of Rehabilitation & Social Psychiatry Annual Conference.

This time I actually managed to leave the hotel and walk by the sea. I was there to talk about my priorities and get feedback on them, I also picked up a new Twitter hashtag #wendysgotaplan. Not trending yet but give me time…..

I stepped into the past to make a trip back to Southampton Medical School where I trained, invited by David Baldwin who heads up their Mental Health Group.

I heard from a number of enthusiastic young researchers in his department where they are doing some really interesting work. 

I gave a talk in a lecture theatre where I spent many (often boring) hours as a student. The only change was the addition of a ramp and a wheelchair space.  The student bar had gone but the foyer of the hospital had been transformed with a Costa and a Marks and Spencer.


Mental Health Act: survey findings

The review of the Mental Health Act in England and Wales, triggered by the steadily rising number of detentions and the fact that you are more likely to be detained if you are from certain ethnic groups, is now underway, led by Simon Wessely.

You will remember that I asked members in England and Wales to complete a survey. Thanks to those who took part, we had a total of 1,951 responses, 15.0% of all members, from across England and Wales.

The majority of respondents believe that it should be possible to admit people to hospital against their wishes where they have mental capacity but pose a risk to themselves or others.

 There was also a majority view that discharging people to the community with conditions on their treatment is an important part of keeping people safe and well in some circumstances.

Since our survey closed, the terms of the review of the Mental Health Act have been set out. We are working with the review to ensure it is fully evidence-based and that the expertise and experience of psychiatrists is fully considered during the review. We will be producing a full report of the findings from our member survey to submit to the review and to share with members.

We have also set up an email address ( in order for all members to have the opportunity to give their thoughts on the areas which the review will cover and to raise other concerns and areas which the review should consider.

As the work of the review progresses I am really keen to make sure that you are kept up to date and that the College continues to listen to your views and represent them  


Around the devolved nations

It’s not only England and Wales that are looking at this area. In Scotland, the Mental Welfare Commission has produced guidance, the Rights in Mind Pathway, on the use of the Mental Health legislation, which was supported by the College.

RCPsych in Scotland continues to involve itself with reviews and reforms of mental health legislation and implementation of the new Mental Health Strategy through representation on groups and its participation in the Scottish Mental Health Partnership.

In Northern Ireland, the Mental Capacity Act (N.I.) 2016 is expected to go live in 2020. This is extremely interesting and will be watched by the rest of the world with great attention.

The RCPsych in Northern Ireland are working closely with the Department of Health and others in the development of the Code of Practice which will accompany the Act.

RCPsych in Northern Ireland have been hosting workshops to engage members and colleagues from other disciplines and will be holding a conference on 22 March 2018 which I am very excited about. 

Details will become available on our Northern Ireland Conferences and events page. The conference will be preceded the evening before by the first ever President’s Lecture outside London which will be delivered by Sue Bailey.


Recruiting trainees

Recruitment for core training next year is now open.

We are really hoping that the recruitment campaign we have been running will make a difference but please do all you can to help by spreading the word about how great and how rewarding a career in Psychiatry is.


Read the November eNewsletter


18/10/2017 11:01:45

Powerful speeches and a royal appointment

Royal Appointment

Party time

I have now completed my first three months as President and am well into my fourth. I have chaired two of the 12 council meetings that will happen during my term of office. And best of all I’m finally enjoying it.

I had a crash course in politics by attending three Party conferences: Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and Labour.

I had to learn to digest briefing documents with College positions and key messages on a wide variety of issues.

I went to a huge number of “round tables” where I sat at what were definitely rectangular tables and desperately tried to get a chance to say my piece.

I even gave a speech at a fringe health event at the Conservative conference.


Powerful and moving

We hosted a roundtable event on crisis care in mental health services, with a focus on the Government’s plans for reforming the Mental Health Act, at both the Labour and Conservative conferences.

One of the members of our service users’ forum spoke very powerfully and movingly of what it is like to be detained.

She described her feelings about the loss of dignity and control and how difficult it is to be a patient on wards where everyone is acutely and severely unwell. We had wide ranging discussions about what might need to change.


Review of the Mental Health Act

At the Conservative conference, the Prime Minister announced the setting up of a review of the Mental Health Act, chaired by Professor Sir Simon Wessely.

He will produce an interim report in early 2018 and develop a final report containing detailed recommendations, by Autumn 2018.

We will be liaising closely with him as he starts work on what will be a challenging project. We are currently analysing the membership survey on the MHA.

One of the clear findings is that Members believe the rising rate of detention is due to reduction in community resources that make it hard to offer an alternative.

Read further information on the review on the government’s website.


Highest trainee pass rate

At the end of September, the results came out for the MRCPsych CASC Examination. The overall pass rate was 65.6% with a trainee pass rate of 81.1%.

This is the highest rate since the exam began.

The statistics have been looked at very carefully and it’s clear that those taking the exam are now of a higher standard. This is excellent news and I look forward to meeting them at a New Members Ceremony.


Buckingham Palace, please!

The highlight of my role so far was my trip to Buckingham Palace for an evening event to celebrate World Mental Health Day, accompanied by Adrian James, Kate Lovett and Kate Milward, ex-chair of the PTC.

The first thrill of the evening was saying “Buckingham Palace please” to the cab driver. The second was walking through the gates and into the Palace grounds.

I was treated as a VIP, as was Professor Dame Sue Bailey who is a past President of the College. A small group of us were taken to the beautiful White Drawing Room where William, Kate and Harry spoke to us all individually.

They were keen to find out if I thought their championship of mental health was making a difference and I reassured them that it was. Harry in particular would like to work more with the College in the future.

I then joined the rest of the guests. It was a fun evening. People who work in our field are often slightly out of the ordinary and almost always interesting. Everyone there had heard of the College and was complimentary about what we do.


Choose psychiatry

Our Choose Psychiatry recruitment campaign continues, I hope you have noticed it and seen the videos which are on our website.

Thanks to all those who have recorded a one minute message about why they love their job and posted it on twitter with the hashtag #ChoosePsychiatry.

Recruitment for 2018 opens soon and I really hope we improve our numbers this time.

Please do all you can to encourage Medical Student and Foundation Doctors and show them what a great job we have and the huge difference psychiatrists make to people’s lives.

Professor Wendy Burn


Read the October eNewsletter >>>


15/09/2017 11:53:13

Help us to help you on the front line

It’s already more than two months since I took up the post of President. It has been a massively steep learning curve.

Having spent five years as Dean I thought that I knew the College, but it turns out there was a lot going on that I wasn’t aware of.  

I received a challenge earlier this week sent from the psychiatrist husband of a College committee member: “The College does nothing for jobbing psychiatrists”.

Having been a jobbing psychiatrist myself for over 30 years, I know why he said that.


On the front line

Out there on the front line it’s hard to know what the College is up to and all you see is resources dwindling away and demands and bureaucracy constantly increasing.

From my position now I can see exactly what the College is doing and how great the influence is.

Simon Wessely achieved a huge amount as President and psychiatry has been promised significantly more resources over the next few years.

What I have to do is to make sure those pledges are kept and that money does actually reach the services on the ground.

It was good to find out that in Leeds where I work new money for perinatal and liaison services has got through as promised. 

Something that has impressed me is the great esteem in which the College is held.

As its representative people in positions of power are keen to meet me and (apparently) willing to listen to what I have to say and be guided by it.

I now know that the College does have a major influence at a national level. This makes it really important that as many members as possible are directly involved.


How you can get involved

Some 1,880 of you already have some type of a role within the College and I hope this will grow. Please watch Posts for Members on the website.

We are currently advertising a number of interesting positions including Chairs of two Specialty Advisory Committees, General Adult and Child and Adolescent which oversee training in these specialities.

Involvement with training and trainees is fantastically rewarding, please consider applying.

You will be aware that the Government has announced that the Mental Health Act, covering England and Wales, will be reviewed in some way. This is as a result of the steadily rising number of detentions and the increased likelihood of being detained if you are black.

These aren’t issues that can be ignored and I’m pleased that they won’t be. It’s an area where I really do need to know what you are thinking and how to represent you so we are running a survey.

Members in England and Wales will have had a recent reminder email from me about this, please do try to complete it, I promise it only takes a few minutes. I also promise I won’t be constantly bombarding you with annoying surveys, it’s just that this is particularly important.


Our new campaign Choose Psychiatry

The final way in which I am asking for your help and involvement is with our recruitment campaign.

Recruitment has a been a problem for years now with unfilled core training posts each application round (although I’m hearing that the quality is improving if not the quantity). We are targeting doctors using social media so please share as much as possible.

We hope the campaign will help but what will make the biggest impact is you acting as role models.

Please forget the tedious computerised assessments and forms that you have to complete and concentrate on what you love about psychiatry.

Make sure that the medical students and Foundation doctors with you see how incredibly interesting the conditions that we deal with are, and what a huge difference we can make to people’s lives if we chose psychiatry as a career.

You can read more about the campaign in our article in this month’s eNewsletter, which also explains how you can support Choose Psychiatry.









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.