2020 President's lectures 

Browse below to see videos and synopses of previous lectures at the College, which have touched on everything from neuroscience to suicide prevention.

Webinar: Tales from the top - the highs and lows of my Presidency

Date: 25 September 2020


Former College President, Professor Wendy Burn, talked about the three years of her Presidency. She described how her life changed beyond recognition and will highlight a selection of the major events and challenges of her Presidency. 

The lecture was followed by a live Q&A session hosted by Dr Adrian James.

Lecturer biography

Wendy was appointed as a Consultant Old Age Psychiatrist in Leeds in 1990 and currently works part-time in a community mental health team for older people and as the National Mental Health Clinical Advisor to Health Education England.

She has been involved in the organisation and delivery of postgraduate training since she started as a consultant. She has held many roles in education. She set up the Yorkshire School of Psychiatry and was the first Head of School.

She was Dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists from 2011 to 2016 and President from 2017 to 2020.

She is currently Co-chair of the Gatsby Wellcome Neuroscience Project which focuses on modernising the neuroscience taught to psychiatric trainees. She is also Chair of the Clinical group of Equally Well, a project set up to improve physical health in people with a serious mental illness.

Webinar: Psychiatrists and prescribed opioids

Date: 5 June 2020


In the USA, there has been much public concern over ‘the opioid crisis’, which has been largely understood in terms of an iatrogenic epidemic of drug misuse. Although the UK has not experienced anything similar, opioid prescriptions have increased markedly in the last twenty years. The increase appears to have plateaued, but there is no sign of the amount of opioids prescribed dropping from the current high level. Furthermore, the proportion of strong opioids prescribed has increased.

This increase in prescriptions has had some impact amongst drug misusers, but the wide spread use of potent opioids for chronic non-cancer pain also has intrinsic problems for patients who show no addiction behaviours. Whilst these drugs do have an important role in pain management, there is growing evidence that they are most effective for acute pain and much less effective when used continuously for long periods. They carry a heavy

burden of side effects, including a marked impact on patients’ cognition and mood, and thus on their mental health. There is also evidence that opioid induced hyperalgesia may be common with long-term high-dose regime. Hence, in some cases, opioids may make chronic pain worse rather than better. Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to reduce or stop these drugs.

Opioids have benefits too, and I would not wish to advocate a return to the situation in hospitals when I was a medical student, whereby opioids were commonly and needlessly withheld from patients who were suffering intolerable acute pain. In this lecture, I will explore the complex issues involved by reference to a programme of research that has been conducted over the past few years at Bangor University’s Centre for Mental Health and Society. I will conclude by drawing out the implications of our findings for British psychiatrists.

Lecturer biography

Rob Poole is Professor of Social Psychiatry at Bangor University, where he co-directs the Centre for Mental Health and Society with Professor Peter Huxley. He is Honorary Consultant in Liaison Psychiatry at Wrexham Maelor Hospital and with Wrexham Pain Management Team.

After training in London and Oxford, he worked as an NHS community psychiatrist in Liverpool and in North Wales for 21 years. He became a full-time academic psychiatrist in 2009.

His clinical and research interests centre on the social and economic determinants of mental health. His main current research activities concern dysfunctional high-dose opioid use in people with chronic pain, and self-harm in South Asia.

He has written extensively, including scientific papers, book chapters, textbooks and a blog. He was first author of Clinical Skills in Psychiatric Treatment (2008), ‘Mental Health and Poverty’ (2014) and Psychiatric Interviewing and Assessment (1st Ed 2006, 2nd Ed 2017), all of which were published by Cambridge University Press. He is presently preparing a book on suicide prevention for RCPsych Publications with Professor Murad Khan, Aga Khan University, Karachi, and Professor Catherine Robinson, University of Manchester, UK.

He received the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017.

Read more to receive further information regarding a career in psychiatry