Life in the hot seat
25 October, 2019
As usual I am writing this on a packed, late running train. Two trainloads of people are crammed in to one train as the previous one didn’t run. However, due to my “getting a seat” skills, which have improved immeasurably during my time as President, I am sitting down and at a table. Sadly, the on-board food has run out but I have my emergency biscuit in my handbag.
Sticking to our priorities
When I last blogged, I was on my way to the Labour party conference, I then headed to the Conservative conference. We live in interesting political times and this was reflected in the mood of the politicians at the conferences. I worked hard to get our views across. At both events myself and representatives from other Medical Royal Colleges made it plain that lack of manpower is the biggest threat to the NHS and that the pension crisis must be dealt with. The message was very clear, I just hope they listened and will act.
Next President in train
We had our own political event at the College with the first ever Presidential hustings. The three candidates (Kam Bhui, Adrian James and Pamela Taylor) each gave a short summary of their election manifestos. They then answered questions from the audience as well as some that had been sent in beforehand. All three did brilliantly, I don’t think I could have coped so well at their stage.
The elections open on 11 December and close on 8 January with the winner being announced immediately after. They will then enter an intensive 6 months training course in train seat finding and ensuring they always have a biscuit handy before taking over from me at the International Congress in Edinburgh in July.
Preparations for Congress 2020 are well underway. We have some very exciting keynote speakers lined up, which we will be able to reveal very shortly, and have had the usual fantastic set of submissions by potential speakers. The Congress committee will be working hard over the next few weeks to look at all of these and to put a programme together. I’m already looking forward to it, it’s always good to be in Scotland and Edinburgh is such a beautiful city.
Great get together
Another first for the College was an engagement event for Medical Directors and CEOs of mental health trusts in England. We had a star-studded list of speakers including Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England and Claire Murdoch, National Director for Mental Health, NHS England. It was good to get so many key influencers in the room together, to hear what is happening on the front line and to be able to share what the College is doing. We are already planning next year’s event and will be holding similar meetings in the Devolved Nations.
Time to learn lessons
Back in May we saw the horrifying Panorama documentary which showed terrible images of abuse perpetrated by staff responsible for caring for patients with learning disabilities and autism at Whorlton Hall Hospital.
It is eight years since we were all appalled following the revelations of abuse at Winterbourne View Hospital after which a Serious Case Review was published. This was followed by Sir Stephen Bubb's report 'Winterbourne View - Time for Change'. And yet the abuse has continued.
Not only did we have Whorlton Hall but in September a hospital in Darlington was put into special measures and the patients were moved. I have written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, urging him to commission a public inquiry lead by a High Court Judge. We must have a thorough understanding of what went wrong and what needs to be put in place to ensure that this vulnerable group of people are never treated in this way again. We are also discussing within the College what we as a profession can do to improve things.
Meanwhile, please be particularly conscious and attentive to issues in your area. If you suspect abuse you must report it. I know it isn’t easy being a whistleblower, our totally confidential Psychiatrists’ Support Service is there if you need it.
On a more cheerful note we have recently had two New Member Ceremonies. Giving out the certificates at these to a new generation of psychiatrists is absolutely the best part of being President. We had people from all over the world and some families had travelled thousands of miles to be there. There was a couple who were both graduating and who had bought their young baby with them. For the first time ever one of the group photographs contained a baby……
Hopefully this baby will grow up to Choose Psychiatry too! Our recruitment campaign for next year’s intake into core training opened recently with great coverage in the media including reporting on ITV, BBC Radio 4 and across national newspapers. In total an amazing 233 different outlets covered our campaign, reaching 2.5 million people. We have also made some new recruitment films, see what you think. My personal favourite is the Old Age one, not that I’m biased in any way.
We continue to do everything we can to make the case centrally but we know that the real recruitment work is done by all you. So please keep encouraging medical students and Foundation trainees to #ChoosePsychiatry by showing them that Psychiatry is the best career in the world.