Inspiration and reasons for optimism
26 November, 2020
Since the last newsletter most of you will be living in lockdown once again. I'm aware of the impact this has on you individually, and for friends and family. It also has consequences for our patients and the support that we are able to provide. I've been inspired by the commitment of all of you, and the ways you’ve innovated during this time to continue to provide compassionate and person-centred care.
Although we’re in lockdown once again, there is a cautious but strong optimism in relation to vaccine development and testing. In all my interactions with policymakers I have kept mental health at the top of the agenda. I’ve continued to meet with the Chief Medical Officer for England, the National Medical Director of NHS England, and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and their ministerial team. This has included pressing for a fair deal for mental health in the comprehensive spending review to try to boost our addiction services, fund our expanding workforce, invest in training, and repair and revive the mental health estate.
We had the good news over the weekend that the government has announced a £500 million package to support mental health services in England in the wake of the pandemic, as well as additional investment for services in the devolved nations. This is a welcome step forward, but we know we must keep going and continue our work to improve services and secure investment for mental health in the areas outlined above.
A huge contribution
The highlight of my month has been the RCPsych Awards 2020 and our presentation ceremony where we recognised the huge contribution of so many of you to our field. I was moved by many of the acceptance speeches that showed how people had struggled against personal and professional adversity, but had come through to provide some of the most excellent services for patients. Baroness Murphy was the recipient of our Lifetime Achievement award. She has been a great role model for academics, managers and leaders, and for women getting to the top of whatever field they choose. She also showed great kindness to many along the way, and was always great fun to work with.
Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones was Psychiatrist of the Year and has developed new and much needed services for gambling and gaming addiction. Dr Syed Naqvi won the Specialty Doctor of the Year award and gave the most moving acceptance speech about how he had been inspired by his hero, his own son who had met the challenge of disability with such positivity and resolve. There was a tear in the eyes of us all.
I also recently met with Alistair Thompson and Raphael Kelvin from MindEd to hear about the amazing work they are doing in creating educational materials for patients, families and people working in non-medical professions who have a great influence on mental health. They've created some great resources around helping children and families manage during the pandemic. I'm very grateful for the work they do, and to all of you who act as experts to advise on evidence-based resources.
My congratulations also go to the CCQI who published the 15th anniversary report for the Prescribing Observatory for Mental Health (POMH-UK). POMH is one of the CCQI’s biggest successes and has been working with mental health services to help them improve their prescribing practice for 15 years. My thanks go to clinical leads Professor Tom Barnes and Dr Carol Paton for their great work.
One important election appears now to have reached a firm conclusion, and we will shortly be in our own election season. We have four excellent candidates for Dean and three for Treasurer. We have arranged hustings which I will chair on the 3 and 10 December. It would be great if as many of you as possible could contribute to these, and I would urge all of you to vote so that all our members are involved in choosing those who will represent you in these important roles.
Eco-distress has been very much in the headlines and is important that there is a clear response. First we must live up to our responsibilities in fighting the climate and ecological emergencies. But we must also respond to the anxiety that this can cause in people, and in particular in young people. I hope that there will be productive discussions to move work on this forward, and we’ve been working hard with both members and lived experience partners to contribute to the discussion and share our perspectives.
Steps forward on equality
We’ve also been taking steps forward in our work on equality and diversity. We have been joining conversations with many of our stakeholders on work to address the impact of Covid-19 on different communities, both in the NHS workforce and the wider community. I’m also looking forward to working with colleagues and stakeholders on our new collaborative to support mental health trusts in implementing the AMHE tool. Furthermore, we’ve been continuing to progress our College strategy and action plan on equality and equity, and have contributed to an Academy of Medical Royal Colleges survey on action to advance race equality.
We’re continuing our work to support workforce, in particular workforce wellbeing. We’re also working to advance our calls for workforce expansion. The pandemic means that it would be both unsustainable and unethical to over-rely on international recruitment. Given the current context, we decided to run an engagement exercise with a group of experts to think practically and creatively about how we can train and support the psychiatric workforce that will be needed once the pandemic has passed. We hope this will help enable the College to offer positive solutions and to influence any service reconfiguration across the UK.
Finally, our parity work is continuing too, with the recent announcement a step forward, but with all our projects and work to help achieve parity still pushing forward. We are continuously progressing our work to ensure that mental health is on the agenda in the context of the pandemic, and are always reviewing and updating our guidance for clinicians to help support our members and wider mental health services to be able to provide safe and effective care whilst protecting our patients and colleagues.
I understand it is an exceptionally busy time for all of us right now, and I hope that all of you manage to take some time over the winter break to recharge and relax. My thanks and support go out to all of you continuing your work to support people affected by mental illness at this challenging time.