Taking tentative steps
29 April, 2021
This month, as the UK begins to take tentative steps towards warmer days, we also take small steps towards exiting lockdown.
April has gifted us the news that the NHS has reached the critical milestone that cohorts 1-9 have now been invited for their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This is a fantastic achievement which leaves us with a sense of pride and a feeling that the end may be in sight.
Most of us will have also had the opportunity for a well-earned rest over the sunny Easter weekend.
I hope all this has left you feeling a little more revived following the depths of winter.
Throughout the pandemic, the College has been positively engaging with the UK government to ensure that people with severe mental illness (SMI) or severe and profound learning disability are not forgotten in the allocation of COVID vaccines. This month, I had the opportunity to chair a free members webinar on Severe mental illness and European COVID-19 vaccination strategies which looked at a systematic review of national COVID-19 vaccine deployment plans across 20 European countries.
This is important research that takes stock of the approaches to including SMI and intellectual disability in vaccine prioritisation.
It is worth highlighting that we continue to monitor vaccine uptake amongst those with SMI and people with a severe and profound learning disability in the UK, and are working with stakeholders to help support uptake. It is vital that these vulnerable groups are protected.
Saying goodbye to the Duke of Edinburgh
The College was saddened to hear of the death of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. This month the country has mourned his loss and we offer our sincere condolences to Her Majesty The Queen, our College Patron HRH The Prince of Wales, and the Royal Family. May he rest in peace.
Mental Health Act White Paper
Last week the College submitted our response to the Mental Health Act White Paper consultation. As many of you will know, the White Paper builds on the recommendations made by our past-President Sir Simon Wessely’s Independent Review of the Mental Health Act in 2018.
Our response drew on the expertise of our members as well as the experiences of patients and carers. Our submission is broadly supportive of the proposals, with a number of caveats, areas of concern and some objections.
Notably, many of the proposals have enormous implications on workforce and funding. We’ve made it clear throughout that the issues the reforms aim to tackle cannot be done by legislation alone, but by limiting the need for people to be admitted in the first place. We also want to ensure that patients receive the highest quality care and they are supported to remain well once recovered.
I also wanted to thank all of you who took the time to respond to our members’ survey on the White Paper. The results played a large role in shaping our response and the College has now published them on our website.
As a College, we’ll continue to work with the Department for Health and Social Care to make sure any new Bill is produced in a way that will allow patients to receive the best possible care and is supported by sufficient funding.
In the headlines
The College continued to make big waves in the headlines this month as it raised awareness of the impact of the pandemic on mental health.
In The Guardian, we highlighted what many of you will already know - there has been a sharp rise in mental ill health, with record numbers of children and adults seeking NHS help. We highlighted analysis of NHS and ONS data which showed the true extent of the mental health crisis.
We also launched our position statement on the detention of people with mental disorders in immigration removal centres (IRCs). In The Independent, we called on Government to allow potential detainees with a mental illness to remain in the community so they can access treatment, reducing the risk of a significant deterioration in their mental health.
Like many other organisations, we made clear that we were disappointed with the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities Report released late last month. I wrote in The Times that the report failed to take notice of the compelling evidence that racial disparities in health, and particularly mental health, are driven in large part by social factors which are structurally determined.
As President I was elected on the platform of promoting equality and diversity, and as a College we will continue to tackle racism across mental health services and in the mental health workforce.
We also welcomed the fact that accountability has been reached for the tragic murder last year of George Floyd. We have also highlighted that there is still a lot to be done in the UK, as we marked Stephen Lawrence Day on our Twitter account.
New Members Ceremonies
Finally, I’m pleased to announce that we will be holding virtual New Members Ceremonies from this month, with the first taking place on 30 April.
This will be a great opportunity to welcome and celebrate people who passed the MRCPsych just before the pandemic in the UK struck. I look forward to being a part of these virtual celebrations.