We must work together
29 October, 2020
As I write this blog increasing areas of the UK are facing tighter restrictions in relation to COVID-19. The second wave presents new challenges, and there is an even greater imperative to work together to support each other and to look after ourselves and those we love. My thoughts are with all of you, and particularly those who have been directly affected.
This week I've emphasised that the spread of the virus is bad for both physical and mental health in multiple ways. We know that COVID-19 attacks the nervous system and there is emerging evidence of direct impact of the virus on mental health, including triggering new episodes of psychosis, anxiety, depression, and cognitive difficulties. For those who have had the virus, there are knock-on effects such as post-traumatic stress disorder in many who have been ventilated and complex grief reactions for those who have experienced the ultimate loss of a loved one. The social and economic consequences of shutting down large aspects of our lives can also be devastating and impact severely on our mental health, as we’ve been highlighting throughout the pandemic.
We need to take all the mental health consequences of COVID-19 and our efforts to curb new outbreaks seriously and ensure that they are all addressed.
In this month's BJPsych Bulletin I co-wrote an editorial, along with Peter Byrne, on placing poverty inequality at the heart of psychiatry. COVID-19 has magnified the social determinants of mental illness, and the situation is concerning. I'm pleased that we are engaging at the highest levels in discussion to try and address these issues. Colleagues in devolved nations are engaging with decision-makers, policy-makers, and those who run services. I have had meetings in the last few weeks with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the Chief Executive of NHS England, the Chief Medical Officer for England and the Medical Director of NHS England. All have been open to discussions about the mental health impact of COVID-19.
The highlight of my month was the launch of the Association of Black Psychiatrists on the 22 October. I want to pay tribute to the leadership of Chinwe Obinwa and her colleagues in pulling the Association together. Black lives matter at the College and we need to support all our members to give of their best. Trust, honesty, open dialogue and challenge are key to making progress in this area, but so is action. I’m looking forward to working closely with the Association to help us realise this aim.
This month we have also had our College strategy day, which was the first time we brought together our Trustee board, Council and Senior Management Team to decide on the future of our organisation. We discussed the core workings of the College along with my presidential priorities of parity of esteem, valuing equality and diversity, sustainability and workforce wellbeing. Our strategy will be published at the end of December, and it will need the input of each and every one of you to help make it a reality.
The College has continued to operate using online platforms for our meetings, webinars, conferences and CPD work. We are constantly evaluating how this is working, and refreshing our approach when needed. More members than ever are able to access these opportunities, but at the same time we are all worse off because of the lack of face-to-face contact that we all value so highly. I'm optimistic that towards the end of next year we will establish a blended approach and there will be further discussions about how we balance face-to-face meetings with online working.
The College invested heavily in digitising all parts of our exam, and the staff team worked incredibly hard to help make the exams happen. I'm pleased that during the first sitting of a fully remote CASC exam that we had 476 candidates successfully complete the process. That said, I'm aware that there were some difficult experiences for some candidates, for which I apologise, and understand solutions were found for by the team as the days went on.
Finally a big thank you to Paul Rees our Chief Executive Officer and the whole of the College staff team. We are very proud that Paul received the Chief Executive of the year award at the Memcom ceremony, and that our Choose Psychiatry campaign also won an award.
A big thank you to all of you for all you are doing for your patients, each other, and the College. I also want to send Diwali greetings to all our members celebrating the festival on 14 November. I hope that you all manage to get some free time over the coming weeks to take a break and recharge. Look after yourselves.