Party (conference) animal
25 September, 2019
I am writing this on the train to Brighton where I will be attending the Labour Party Conference and flying the flag for Mental Health. Our Registrar, Adrian James, has already represented the College at the Lib Dems’ conference earlier this month and we’ll be off to the Conservative one next week.
This will be my last set of Party conferences as President and makes me realise how much the post has changed me. When I started I had very little interest in politics. I now know it is really about power, money and personalities and I have come to find it fascinating. No one can deny how significant it can be for the work of the College and the people we help. As I’ve blogged about many times before, the mental health content within the NHS Long Term Plan for England is testimony to this.
You will have seen the announcement of the names of the three people who are standing for election to take over from me next summer; Kam Bhui, Adrian James and Pamela Taylor.
It’s a huge relief to me to have three such fantastic people queuing up for the job. They are all wonderful and would bring very different things to the post. You will be able to vote for your chosen candidate between 11 December and 8 January. Choose carefully! The first-ever set of RCPsych Presidential hustings will be held at the College on Thursday 3 October and I’m looking forward to asking them the awkward questions that are already coming in. If you have a question submit it via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile the RCPsych Gatsby Wellcome Neuroscience project continues to go from strength to strength. We have set up a group of Neuroscience champions, trainees with an interest in Neuroscience who are spreading the word in their local Schools of Psychiatry. Their most recent project is a newsletter which is available in our neuroscience resources section.
In August I attended the World Psychiatric Association World Congress of Psychiatry in Lisbon. It was a chance to catch up with Psychiatric leaders from across the world and to share problems and solutions. I chaired a session on Education, it was interesting to compare Psychiatric training systems from different countries.
My globe-trotting continued with a trip to Quebec for the Canadian Psychiatric Association’s Annual conference. As always with international conferences the talks were excellent and I came away with ideas worth stealing for our own International Congress.
The most memorable part of the conference was the entertainment during the Gala dinner. Eminent Psychiatrists were pulled on stage and forcibly encouraged to wear funny hats and perform. Instruments, which happened to be partly on fire, were played in very unusual situations. If your mind boggles, it should! See my Twitter account for pictures. And no, we won’t be bringing the performers over for our Gala dinner next year….
Over the summer I also got a chance to travel for leisure to Nice in France for sunshine, food and culture. It was a lovely break and definitely recharged my batteries. I hope that you have all had a chance to do similar or have a good break coming up soon.
What’s the deal for mental health services?
The continued uncertainty about Brexit is worrying (to put it mildly). I’m aware of the high level of concern about how a No Deal exit might affect the patients under our care, particularly in the areas of medication supply and workforce. We are working closely with the GMC, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and the Department of Health and Social Care to be sure that we are as prepared as possible.
Even with Brexit aside the workforce is a worry. Recruitment is improving, and we are seeking your help for our latest campaigns to make sure this success continues.
But we are conscious that this doesn’t bring instant solutions. I know that those of you on the frontline need some urgent help in your work with patients. Physician associates are increasingly being employed to work in mental health, both on inpatient units and in the community.
We are holding a seminar early next year at the College to share good practice and discuss how to make best use of physician associates’ skills in mental health services. I’m hoping as many organisations as possible will send representatives.
One of the greatest privileges of being your President has been getting to know Larry, the Number 10 cat. Now that there is a dog in residence in Downing Street I am concerned about his future. I have offered him a home at the College if it all gets too much for him, I’m sure that I can count on your support for this and expect that a College cat would enhance the experience of visiting the building.