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
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
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
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
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
I then attended the Northern Ireland Spring Meeting which was
brilliantly organised by Gerry Lynch, Chair of RCPsych NI and his
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
I know that we all in England, Scotland and Wales (and further
afield, no doubt) will be watching closely how things in NI
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
The second statement was on supporting transgender and gender-diverse
This is another area where work is much needed and will be done.
Thanks to all the people who contributed to getting these
I look forward to working with members and with other
organisations to ensure that the important recommendations are
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
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