The history of public mental health at the College

The College has undertaken a number of public mental health activities over the last 10 years.

From 2014, RCPsych approached rising premature mortality of people with serious mental illness (SMI) by:

  • building key partnerships to change policy
  • raising awareness among psychiatrists, with parallel work to incorporate evidence into health professionals’ curricula.

This led to the following:

  • Collaboration with ASH (Action on Smoking for Health) and 27 other partners in The Stolen Years report. Our mental health and smoking partnership continues, with a consensus request to raise the legal age of purchase to 21.
  • College report on prescribing vaping and varenicline to people with serious mental illness who smoke.
  • Membership of key NHS and public health groups to reduce smoking rates with multilevel intervention: staff training, electronic referrals, liberal vaping policies and changing CQC priorities curricula.
  • RCPsych advocating for minimum unit pricing for alcohol, as implemented in Scotland and Ireland; this was consistently raised with Public Health England over the past decade.
  • RCPsych joined the  Obesity Health Alliance to successfully lobby the UK government for a sugary drinks tax and a ban on junk food advertising pre-watershed. This advocacy is balanced by working closely with the Eating Disorders Faculty to reduce unintended harms.
  • Ongoing work with Equally Well UK to promote healthy weight management – not least obesogenic prescribing within obesogenic environments.
  • Working with the Liaison Faculty to identify ‘postcode prescribing’ in treatments offered to patients with serious mental illness who become obese: we identified inequalities in the pathways to obesity and the treatments offered (medications/bariatric surgery).
  • Identifying the main driver of premature deaths in people with mental disorders as poverty-inequality in a special edition of BJPsych Bulletin in October 2020. Articles on smoking, homelessness, benefits and so on are open access.
  • Grant applications to identify implementable interventions with national research coalition,  Closing the Gap.
  • Working for curriculum changes at medical school and postgraduate level to improve the content on nutrition within a personalised medicine framework.
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