International strategy: introduction

This introduction describes the way RCPsych's services affect the world in 2020, as we launch our first ever International strategy.

As well as a long history that dates back 180 years, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has a vision, in its current two-year strategy, of a ‘strong and progressive College that supports its members to deliver high-quality, person-centred care across the UK, and over the world’.

The College is an international organisation and, as at December 2019, out of its 18,723 members, 3,348 of them – or 18% – were based outside the UK, which means that mental health provision across the globe is delivered by RCPsych members.

Of our 3,348 international members:

  • 94 are based in Africa
  • 864 are based in Europe
  • 206 are based in the Middle East
  • 616 are based in the Americas
  • 313 are based in South Asia, and
  • 1,255 are based in the West Pacific.

Among the biggest memberships in individual nations are:

  • 655 in Ireland
  • 596 in Australia
  • 404 in Canada
  • 284 in Hong Kong
  • 207 in India
  • 183 in the USA
  • 166 in New Zealand
  • 137 in Singapore
  • 72 in Pakistan, and
  • 59 in Malaysia.

As a College, our international members are represented by six international RCPsych divisions:

  • The African Division
  • The European Division
  • The Middle Eastern Division
  • The Pan-American Division
  • The South Asia Division, and
  • The West Pacific Division.

As well as having members all over the world, around half of our UK-based members obtained their primary medical qualification outside the UK. This means that while, as a College, we have a lot to offer psychiatry and wider mental health services globally, we have also benefitted from amongst the best professionals and best practices from around the world.

We have established MRCPsych exam centres in Ireland, Oman, Singapore, Malta, Hong Kong and India and our exam continues to be regarded as a particularly high standard of postgraduate qualification in psychiatry.

We deliver CPD Online in Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands, Estonia and Malta.

We sell our learned books and journals in various nations. The latest impact factor for our publication, the British Journal of Psychiatry (BJPsych) is 7.233, which is a 23% increase on the previous year. This means that out of 142 learned psychiatric journals it is ranked seventh in the world.

Our Faculties play a key role in shaping policy for psychiatric sub-specialties in Europe and beyond.

Our public health leaflets, which have been translated into 25 languages, are accessed, via the College website, by communities in the UK and worldwide. MindEd, the free online educational resource on mental health issues for children, young people, families and older people, which is hosted by the College, is accessed by patients and practitioners globally.

Our College Centre for Quality Improvement (CCQI) has 27 member services outside the UK, with:

  • 20 services in Ireland
  • Two in New Zealand
  • One in India
  • One in Hungary
  • One in Greece
  • One in Norway, and
  • One in the United Arab Emirates.

The College runs a volunteer scheme, in close collaboration with our Volunteering and International Psychiatry Special Interest Group (VIPSIG), which links around 15 RCPsych members a year, who want to donate their time, to services in low-and-middle income countries that need specialist training.

We have run programmes in highly challenging contexts such as Iraq and Myanmar. The College also runs its Medical Training Initiative (MTI), which is designed to enable a small number of international psychiatry graduates to enter the UK to experience training in the NHS for up to two years, before returning to their home country. During 2019, 50 people came to the UK under this scheme. This was up from 40 in 2018, and 15 in 2017.

The RCPsych continues to build relationships with equivalent international psychiatric associations, such as the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), the Indian Psychiatric Society (IPS), the South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP), as well as the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) and the European Psychiatric Association (EPA). The College also hosts a small number of international delegations visiting the UK on study visits – most recently delegations from China and Russia.

The RCPsych is involved in setting standards for training in Europe through its membership of the European Union of Medical Specialists (UEMS) Psychiatry Section. The College aspires to maintain its links to European psychiatry regardless of the implications of Brexit. We have also arranged education seminars with psychiatric associations from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Hong Kong and South Africa, in order to share examples of good practice in the training of psychiatrists.

While the RCPsych has a rich history of working across the globe, to help promote standards and quality in psychiatry and improve mental health care, this is our first comprehensive international strategy, encompassing the whole organisation.

The objectives set out in the strategy acknowledge that there is sometimes a focus on specific regions where the College has existing collaborations, a large membership and/or which allow for potential growth of the College’s support and membership. The purpose of this strategy is to set the values and principles that will underpin our international work and the operational model. The international strategy will also ensure that the work we carry out is led by the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.