RCPsych roars into the twenties
28 January, 2020
Here we are in 2020, the start of a new decade and one that I hope will see us further on our way to true parity of esteem between mental and physical health.
Take a moment to recognise your hard work
The year started well with two of our members being recognised in the New Years Honours list. Navina Evans, CEO of East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT) and Paul Lelliott, former deputy chief inspector of hospitals at the Care Quality Commission each received a CBE. The College will be submitting another round of applications soon so please do let us know about colleagues whose great work deserves to be recognised.
We are also about to open applications for Fellowship of the College. This is awarded as a mark of distinction and recognition of contribution to psychiatry. Psychiatrists tend to be far too modest and I have met many of you who deserve this award but don’t realise it. I’m happy to advise anyone who is considering this (my first bit of advice is that you will have done far more than you credit yourself for, so apply!).
The results of the Clinical Excellence Awards round for 2019 were released recently. Many congratulations to those who received an award. Commiserations for those who applied and weren’t successful. The awards are hugely competitive but don’t give up, this year’s round is about to open. If you have been involved in College work and would like us to support you please get in touch.
January’s safety item is the use of Valproate to treat bipolar disorder in women who could get pregnant. Please do read this below – the use of sodium valproate in pregnancy is associated with a 40% risk of persistent neurodevelopmental disorders and a 10% risk of physical birth defects.
The really big news this month was the election of my successor (I never use the word replacement as I am obviously irreplaceable). I was delighted that Dr Adrian James was chosen by you after a hard-fought election. As Registrar, Adrian has been my right-hand man and I know that he will continue what I have been doing to lead the College forward. Congratulations to the other candidates, Professor Kam Bhui and Professor Pamela Taylor, I am sure they will also be continuing to do lots more to improve things for our patients. I hand over to Adrian at our International Congress in Edinburgh in June. The conference programme is looking great and I hope to see many of you there to support Adrian and I at the Annual General Meeting where the Chain of Office will be ceremoniously passed to him.
New Year’s resolution
Since I started as President, I have updated you with my priorities for the year ahead each January. This year the three biggest ones remain the same: recruitment, retention and funding. Recruitment has improved but we can’t afford to rest on our laurels. The ambition is to be in a situation where we have more good applicants than we have training places for so that we can substantially increase the numbers of trainees. Retention has also improved a little and at last the total number of psychiatrists in the UK is slowly increasing. There are still challenges ahead but we are definitely moving in the right direction.
Help ensure funding for mental health care
The Government has introduced the NHS Funding Bill, to enshrine in law the planned increase in NHS spending.
The College is proposing an amendment to this Bill, to guarantee that NHS spending on mental services continues to increase until we have reached full financial parity between mental and physical health.
Thanks to the over 500 members who emailed their MP to put mental health funding on an equal footing with the rest of the NHS. We have made it as easy as possible to email your MP to ask them to support the campaign and you still have until February 4 before the NHS Funding Bill is debated again in Parliament.
As a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, we would like you to send an email to your local MP asking them to support this amendment.
An opportunity to improve the sustainability of mental health care
Another issue that is becoming more and more important to us all is sustainability. This winter we have seen the terrible fires in Australia with catastrophic results for wildlife. Where I live, in Yorkshire, there has yet to be any significant snow this winter, the first time this has happened since I moved there over 30 years ago. The College has already banned single use plastic after David Attenborough showed us what plastic is doing to our oceans. It is becoming clear that we need to focus more of our energies on the effect of climate change and pollution on mental health and see what we can do to improve things. We are producing an internal sustainability strategy about how the College functions which we will share with you. We also need to continue and expand the work of our suitability committee. The post of Associate Registrar for sustainability is being advertised - we are looking for someone who can help all psychiatrists to practice and live in a more sustainable way. If this is an area of interest to you please consider applying.
World Psychiatric Association
Elections for various positions on the World Psychiatric Association Executive committee will take place in October this year. If you are interested in standing, please apply.
Social media report
Earlier this month we published a report saying that social media companies should be compelled to hand over their data to universities for independent research into the risks and benefits of social media use. The report was backed by the father of teenager Molly Russell, who died after viewing harmful content online and it provides practical guidance to children and young people, parents and carers, clinicians and teachers on this issue. After hitting national headlines with the report, the government has already pledged to consider the report, namely the recommendation that anonymised data should be shared for research. We hope that this will spur meaningful action.
Happy New Year
It’s a bit late but I wish you a Happy New Year and all the best for 2020. I will be busy travelling about the UK in my last months as President and I hope to meet many of you on my journeys.
Safety item: Valproate
Healthcare is not as safe as it should be and too many patients suffer harm that could be prevented. Each month we will include one safety item in this newsletter. We will highlight an incident of preventable harm so that we can all learn from it.
This month’s safety item is prescribing of Valproate to women and girls who could get pregnant. Unborn babies exposed to valproate preparations are at very high risk of neurodevelopmental problems and at high risk of congenital malformations.
Valproate must no longer be prescribed to a woman of child bearing potential unless she is on a pregnancy prevention programme.
There is a position statement “Withdrawal of, and alternatives to, valproate-containing medicines in girls and women of childbearing potential who have a psychiatric illness” which gives guidance on what to do in this situation and a Patient Information Leaflet on this topic.