Looking ahead to 2021
17 December, 2020
At the end of what has been a challenging year for us all, I want to wish you all the best for the festive season. I hope you all get the chance to rest, recharge and reflect on the year’s turbulent events.
I am optimistic about what 2021 will bring as it seems we are starting to turn a corner in the pandemic. We have welcomed the news that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has reached the UK’s shores, and it is encouraging that other vaccines are also in the pipeline. Although rolling it out will not be without its challenges, hopefully we will get some way towards ensuring our patients and loved ones are protected throughout early 2021.
The College has worked hard to ensure that the risks associated with COVID-19 for those with Severe Mental Illness (SMI), Down’s syndrome and intellectual disabilities and/or autism were highlighted during planning for vaccine prioritisation to policymakers. As a result of this work, we are pleased that updated guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation includes our recommendation that adults under 65 years of age with SMI, a severe and profound learning disability and Down’s syndrome should be included in the cohort of individuals with underlying health conditions to be offered the COVID-19 vaccine.
Mental health at the heart of the recovery
Yet, we still have some way to go. Rates of mental illness will need our close attention throughout the pandemic and we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure prioritisation in the recovery. This week NICE are due to publish the first national guidance around management of post-COVID-19 syndrome. This will play an important role for our patients given the mental health impact of this condition. We have worked with policy makers to ensure that this element of the condition remains in focus.
While the response to COVID-19 continues, other services and improvement programmes are still ongoing, and in England, local systems are planning for transformation of community mental health services. To help support this work we’ve developed 8 Key Messages to support the roll-out of the Community Mental Health Framework which we hope will be useful to members.
I was also fortunate enough to attend the Northern Ireland Devolved Council meeting this month. It was great to hear more about the hard work going into the development of the Department of Health’s Mental Health Strategy. I would like to thank them, along with our amazing staff and leaders in Wales and Scotland, for all their incredible efforts this year.
Renewal for the College
The New Year will be a time for renewal for the College too. From 16 December 2020 to 13 January 2021 the College’s Dean and Treasurer elections are open. Four outstanding candidates are standing in our elections to become the next College Dean and another three brilliant candidates are standing in our elections to become the next College Treasurer. I encourage you all to look at the hustings events that we have been running this month and ensure that you take the time to have your say. All Members, Fellows and Specialist Associates are eligible to vote and the results will be announced on 14 January.
We will also be publishing our College Strategic Plan for 2021-23. It will outline our strategy for the next three years, uphold our College values and focus on my four strategic priorities: equality and diversity, parity of esteem, workforce wellbeing and sustainability. We have already begun to make headway on my priorities; the Choose Psychiatry 2020 launch this autumn; ensuring mental health remains a priority during the pandemic; our upcoming position statement on sustainable healthcare and making mental health a part of the movement to tackle the climate emergency; and our Equality Action Plan which is ready to be published in January, are just a few examples.
Our Strategy will continue to strive towards our charitable mission which aims to secure the best outcomes for people with mental illness, intellectual disabilities and developmental disorders by promoting excellent mental health services, supporting the prevention of mental illness, training outstanding psychiatrists, promoting quality and research, setting standards and being the voice of psychiatry. I am very proud of all the work and consideration that has gone into this plan and I encourage you all to read it once it is published early in the New Year.
I am excited to announce that the Clinical Excellence Awards are now open for submissions and will close at 5pm on Thursday 18 March. As a recognised nominating body, the College can recommend a limited number of members to Advisory Committee on Clinical Excellence Awards for 2021. In line with the College values, and my priorities, we would welcome nominations from members of all backgrounds, particularly female and Black, Asian and minority ethnic College doctors. I am sure that this year there will be no shortage of excellent candidates.
I would like to finish by thanking our College members in leadership positions and our staff who have worked tirelessly to ensure that we continue to be at the forefront of setting and achieving the highest standards in mental health care. Lastly, but by no means least, I would like to say a huge thank you to all of you for your incredible efforts in caring for our patients, who remain at the heart of all that we do, in this most unusual of years.