A Parliamentary Scholar speaks - Dr Nitisha Patel
21 February, 2019
Dr Nitisha Patel, an ST6 Child and Adolescent Psychiatry trainee at SWLSTG, and currently a Medical Education Fellow at ELFT, is one of the College’s Parliamentary scholars.
In this blog, Nitisha talks about her experiences in the role.
Becoming a Parliamentary scholar
As I clicked through the numerous work emails I had accumulated over the past day, one caught my eye from a colleague – a link to the RCPsych Parliamentary Scholar Programme.
Dr Paul Lomax had been a scholar that year and had sent out an email to all of the SpRs in my trust encouraging us to apply, as he had thoroughly enjoyed his time on the scheme. ‘Why not?’ I thought…
Ready, steady, go…wait, stop
I was raring to go. The powers of Westminster, however, had other ideas. It takes a little while to get up and running on the IT systems, and to get an ID pass - essential for wandering the corridors of the Houses of Parliament.
However after all the necessary checks were done, I was given my security badge and my new parliament email address (very exciting!).
I had been paired with Baroness Tyler of Enfield; she is a Liberal Democrat peer with a particular interest in children and adolescents’ mental health, and social care. She is not only extremely efficient and hardworking, but also incredibly affable; I was sure we were a good match.
Every day at Westminster (or 1 Millbank to be precise) is different.
Often, Baroness Tyler will have emailed a variety of press releases during the week that I am to go through, picking out key statistics and statements that will go on to form an article for the Lib Dem Voice, or a speech for the House of Lords, for example.
I am often sent embargoed copies of reports and am asked to think of a response in case Baroness Tyler needs to respond on behalf of the party; however I am now au fait with researching a topic in depth, only for the entire focus of the day to change to something more urgent!
One of my roles is to provide briefings for Baroness Tyler on topics for written/oral questions which are posed to the Minister for Health in the Lords, and it is thrilling to watch her deliver these in Parliament.
I have also been given a number of opportunities to attend meetings; the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mental Health discussed the recent NHS long term plan in February 2019, and Baroness Tyler was able to put questions we had raised in the House of Lords in January to Claire Murdoch, the NHS national director for mental health. It is truly rewarding to see how my clinical perspective can form the basis of arguments made in Parliament.
Opportunities not to be missed
Although my start was halted by some bureaucracy, I am getting into the full swing of how Parliament works. I know there are still plenty of opportunities to come and I am relishing the chance to get involved in all that I can.
Being a Parliamentary Scholar has allowed me to understand how policy can be influenced. An important lesson I have learnt is that although most questions are not given a direct reply, repeatedly asking the same thing is a foot in the door.
I am grateful for being given this opportunity by RCPsych, Baroness Hollins who initiated the scheme, and to Baroness Tyler who is not only fascinating to work with but has the patience to endure my ever-changing timetable!
This blog was original published as part of the February 2019 eNewsletter.