The College carries on
14 May, 2020
Those of you who have followed my blogs will know that they have been written in many different places, often while travelling on various forms of transport and usually incorporating complaints about this transport.
I am writing this one in my home in Ilkley.
The College carries on
I started my last blog on 23 March with the words “Less than two weeks ago we were cancelling College events with over 100 participants until the end of March, and wondering if we were overreacting”.
Since that time things have moved faster than I ever anticipated. Our Offices closed at the end of March but the College as a body that supports its members has continued and has grown in strength. We are still delivering member services from homes, bedrooms and garden sheds all around the UK.
Many of the staff are working in less than ideal circumstances – some are home schooling children or caring for babies while working fulltime hours. But no one has complained, and all have taken pride in ensuring we continue to provide the same level of service to our members.
Meetings and events
We have recently taken the difficult decision to cancel all face to face conferences and events until the end of December 2020.
This at least gives us certainty in planning conferences. We have already been providing a range of webinars which have been extremely popular and we will now move to holding some of our major conferences remotely.
It won’t be quite the same as being in the room along with colleagues but on the brighter side it will cut down the travelling and the expense of hotels and will also be much easier for those with caring responsibilities to take part.
Risk mitigation for Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff
In response to growing concerns about the disproportionate impact the pandemic is having on Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff the College set up a Task and Finish Group to look at this area. It was asked to rapidly develop recommendations on how mental health services in the UK can support Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff.
Guidance on risk assessment and risk management is now available within the group’s report Impact of COVID-19 on Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff in mental healthcare settings: assessment and management of risk along with a risk assessment tool, to be used to seek pragmatic and safe working arrangements, developed by Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.
I’d like to give a huge thanks to the group’s chair, Dr Ananta Dave, and all members of the group who worked with incredible speed and dedication to pull this together. It is critical that Black, Asian and minority ethnic colleagues are proactively supported by leadership and management during and after this crisis. The College will continue to call for this and please do all you can to encourage this guidance to be adopted by your Trusts.
Support through difficult times
These are difficult times for all of us. If you need some help the Psychiatrists' Support Service provides free, rapid, high quality peer support by telephone to psychiatrists of all grades who may be experiencing personal or work-related difficulties. Our service is totally confidential and delivered by trained Doctor Advisor College members.
If you need medical input in England you can self-refer to Practitioner Health. This is a free, confidential NHS service for doctors and dentists across England with mental illness and addiction problems, who are working or looking to return to clinical practice. The service can help with issues relating to a mental health concern, including stress or depression or an addiction problem, in particular where these might affect work.
The mental health support scheme Health for Health Professionals (now known as 'Canopi') has been extended to every frontline healthcare worker in Wales, with increased investment to run more counselling sessions and conduct further PTSD interventions.
In Scotland the Wellbeing Hub for those working in health and social care has just been launched. Scottish officers and members are also calling for a Practitioner Health programme to cover Scotland.
The RCPsych Northern Ireland Chair is meeting with interested parties to discuss launching a similar programme for members in Northern Ireland.
One of the hardest decisions we had to take was to cancel the 2020 Diet 1 of both Papers A and B, and the CASC Exam in Singapore that was planned for May. We know how difficult this was for trainees who had worked hard preparing for the examinations and who are worried about their career progression.
We are doing all we can to run the rest of the Exam Calendar planned for 2020, starting with the CASC in September, and then the second diets of Paper A and B after that.
It is very likely that the written papers will be delivered using an online system. We will share more details when we have these.
For the CASC, we will either run a socially distanced version of the CASC at our Sheffield centre, or deliver an online version based on live video consultations. We will provide further updates about this as soon as possible and will make sure that examination candidates have all the details that they need well before the exam takes place.
Section 12 (2) and Approved Clinician Induction course
We have been collaborating with Section 12(2) Mental Health Act 1983 and Approved Clinicians Approvals Panel Chairs in England to produce a Section 12(2) and Approved Clinician induction course that can be delivered online.
We are delighted to announce that our initial proposal has been received positively and are now working hard on the content. The plan is to deliver this in time for all those trainees entering ST4 in August to gain Section 12 (2) approval before they start work.
The College in Scotland has worked to ensure that NHS Education for Scotland (NES) develops virtual Approved Medical Practitioner (AMP) training and has now been informed that development of virtual AMP training is a priority and should be available by the summer.
Members in Northern Ireland can continue to access online training for the MH legislation as usual and have been informed via updates by the College in Northern Ireland.
Providing medication during the pandemic
I hope that you have seen our COVID-19 guidance on providing medication. This includes information for clinicians on prescribing benzodiazepines, lithium and clozapine.
We have just added some temporary guidance on prescribing valproate. During the pandemic, changes to the usual operating of the pregnancy prevention plan may be required, particularly for patients who are self-isolating or taking shielding precautions. The guidance covers the use of valproate in patients of childbearing potential during the coronavirus pandemic including initiating the medication, annual reviews and pregnancy testing for pregnancy prevention requirements.
Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences
I’d like to give a huge thank you to the 1,369 members from across the UK who responded to our latest survey on experiences in mental health services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Initial findings of the survey formed the basis of the College’s submissions to House of Commons Select Committee inquiries into delivering core NHS and care services during the pandemic and beyond into the impact of COVID-19 on people with protected
characteristics and informed a briefing to the leader of the Opposition on lessons to be learnt from the COVID response and preparing the NHS for the next phase.
We are working to illustrate to the public your responses which show many of you are seeing a rise in patients requiring urgent and emergency care, while routine appointments are often decreasing. We will be calling for clear support for mental health
services so that we can provide adequate support to patients in the aftermath of the pandemic and to ensure that the public receive the message that mental health services are open for business.
Rest and relaxation
Life is hard at the moment. We are all missing friends and family and the ability to go where we please. I can’t believe I used to complain about train travel, how wonderful it would be now to have the freedom to just get on a train and go somewhere (even if it did take several hours longer than expected).
Please make sure that you do get some rest and relaxation. Our webinar on wellbeing has some useful tips. It also gives you a chance to see our President Elect modelling a College sweatshirt.
As ever please contact me if you have any questions or ideas about what I and the College can do to support you.