A new year for the College
28 January, 2021
Welcome to a new year. For many, this is a time of hope and new beginnings, but the pandemic has presented us with one of its most challenging periods yet.
Sadly, many of us will now know of friends and colleagues who have died because of this awful virus.
This month we lost one of our own, Psychiatrist Dr Shaun Gravestock, a retired fellow of the College and a great friend to many in our Intellectual Disability Faculty.
This is a real loss to the profession and my sympathies are with his family and all those who have lost loved ones in recent months.
Looking after yourself and those around you
We are also now facing a new lockdown which makes everyday life more difficult. Again, I would like to point you towards the resources we have available on our website to help you look after your wellbeing, as well as all the COVID-19 guidance we have developed to support you in taking care of patients at this time.
We will also be starting a new Enjoying Work Collaborative to help improve staff morale during this difficult time; participating teams will be trying new approaches and learning new techniques.
Despite its very turbulent beginning I do hope that you were able to have some rest over the festive period and continue to stay safe in these uncertain times.
A time of hope
Importantly, the new year is also a time for hope. We have the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine coming on stream which will allow many more patients and frontline healthcare workers access.
The College has been working closely with stakeholders to ensure that the unique challenges to mental health settings and to our patients are acknowledged in the roll out.
We also have lots of helpful links available on our website on the COVID-19 vaccine which I urge you to take a look at. We will be running a webinar this month on understanding the COVID-19 vaccination strategy with Dr Jonathan Leach OBE, NHS England Medical Director for COVID-19 Immunisation, among other experts.
The College will welcome our new Dean and Treasurer this year with the results announced earlier this month. Both Professor Subodh Dave, our new Dean, and Professor John Crichton, our new Treasurer, will take up their posts in the summer.
They are taking over from Dr Kate Lovett and Dr Jan Falkowski respectively and will serve five-year terms. I would like to wish Subodh and John the best of luck in their new roles.
Alongside these, we held elections for Devolved Nations, Divisions, Faculties, the Psychiatric Trainees Committee and Special Interest Groups, and the results in full are now available on our website.
We have also held MRCPsych CASC exams this month and the College has continued to work hard to deliver these completely online. I’m sure that this has been a nerve-racking time for all candidates taking the exams, but it is certainly exciting that they will soon be receiving their much-anticipated results.
The College makes the headlines
The College has received a huge amount of publicity in recent weeks, beginning with my interview with The Guardian where I highlighted that COVID-19 poses the greatest threat to mental health since the second world war.
This article was picked up by BBC News, the Daily Mail and the Sun as well as across the local and devolved press. Chair of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Faculty, Dr Bernadka Dubicka also made a huge splash with her comment piece in the Telegraph on the effects of the pandemic on children’s mental health.
Over the course of 2020, the College had a potential audience reach of 1.25bn. I hope this raised awareness of the mental health consequences of the pandemic, and highlighted how they do not stop when the virus is under control.
Although much of the focus has been on the immediate challenges that we face, it is important that we reflect on our history too.
This year the College will be celebrating 180 years since the establishment of the first of our predecessor bodies, the Association of Medical Officers of Asylums and Hospitals for the Insane which was founded in 1841.
There will be lots of opportunities to learn more about our past and commemorate this important anniversary and I hope that as many members as possible take the opportunity to do so.
Launch of the Mental Health Act White Paper and our Equality Action Plan
This month we as a College welcomed the publication of the Mental Health Act White Paper. This is an important opportunity to modernise mental health law and improve safeguards and support for people in a mental health crisis.
The reform of the Mental Health Act will help ensure that patients are heard, their choices respected and that they are supported to get better in the least restrictive way. We will be consulting with you, our members, on how the changes will work on the ground and look forward to engaging positively with you on this over the coming months.
I am also incredibly pleased that we have now published our Equality Action Plan. One of my priorities when I was elected as President last year was equality and diversity. Having clear actions that help us achieve traction and momentum is vital.
It was also announced this month that I have been elected to the board of the NHS Race and Health Observatory, an independent body hosted by the NHS Confederation and supported by NHS England and NHS Improvement.
We held our first meeting this month, and our longer-term focus will be to examine long-standing health inequalities affecting Black, Asian and minority ethnic patients, staff and communities. This will include maternity and neonatal outcomes, mental health, data and digital access to healthcare – as well as the immediate challenges of the impact of the pandemic.
As always, thank you for your continued hard work and dedication to our patients.