Reopening, football and NHS reforms
29 July, 2021
As COVID-19 cases continue to grow, and while more and more people are getting vaccinated, July has proved that we continue to live in very uncertain times.
Unfortunately, we are not out of the woods yet and there are still those with COVID-19 who are critically unwell. My thoughts remain with all staff that are still very much on the front line. You have all worked so unbelievably hard during the pandemic and we are forever grateful for your dedication.
While we all want to return to normal life, it is essential that we all take a responsible approach as restrictions lift. I urge you all to continue to act with care so that we can fully and finally emerge from this pandemic.
The European Championship has been a positive and exciting focus. It was great to see that Scotland, Wales and England all qualified for the group stage of the tournament. But for me, it was brilliant to see the England men’s football team get so far in the competition despite their disappointing loss in the final moments.
However, I and the wider College are very clear that the racism experienced by some of the England team after their defeat is unacceptable. Racism is ugly, bad for mental health, and has no place in our society. We stand firmly with Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka.
Welcoming a new Secretary of State
In the UK, we welcomed a new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care following the departure of Matt Hancock. I have written to Sajid Javid to welcome him to his role and invited him to meet to discuss our shared priorities for mental health. I look forward to working with him as he settles into what is a very demanding brief.
With COVID-19's impact on the nation’s mental health becoming clearer, it is more important than ever that this is considered in the upcoming Spending Review and that the planned reforms to the Mental Health Act continue.
The Health and Care Bill was also introduced to Parliament earlier this month and had its second reading on 14 July. This presents a real opportunity to improve mental health care in England.
In consultation with members and partner organisations, we have developed initial suggestions for strengthening the Bill to ensure parity of esteem between mental and physical health. Importantly, we are calling for a new duty for Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) to promote parity of esteem between mental and physical health, and for the requirement of a mandated mental health representative on every ICB. You can read more about these and our other priorities for the legislation – workforce planning and addressing inequalities - in our Parliamentary briefing. You can also support our work by writing to your MP to amend the Bill.
We look forward to working with Sajid Javid and the wider Department of Health and Social Care over the coming months.
Progressing on our Equality Actions
It is events such as those seen after the European Championship final that make it even clearer why the College is working towards the wider aims of our Equality Action Plan. In July, we continued to make progress on our 29 ambitious actions.
As some of you will know, I am a member on the NHS Race and Health Observatory board and attended our quarterly meeting just last week. The Observatory is doing important work examining health inequalities experienced by Black and minority ethnic communities in England. This month the Observatory launched a new survey for stakeholders and communities to engage over preferred terminology for describing ethnic identity. This survey will explore preferences for this collective terminology and will be followed by a series of roundtables to look at this more deeply. I encourage you all to fill it out.
I was also privileged to be at the launch of one of our two new collaboratives this month: the Advancing Mental Health Equality (AMHE) Collaborative. As part of the Equality Action Plan, the NCCMH are launching this collaborative aimed at helping mental health care providers to reduce mental health inequalities in their local area. This is a fantastic opportunity for member organisations to access expert support and guidance to tackle this difficult but extremely important area.
Last but by no means least, the College has also been celebrating South Asian History Month, the first of which was held last year. We have published blog posts, podcasts and hosted a series of events - including one on Systemic Racism and How to tackle it. Our membership is diverse and full of so many wonderful and inspiring South Asian psychiatrists. Do take the time to read and listen to some of the incredible contributions.
Meeting of Council
Importantly, we held our latest meeting of Council this month. It was a great opportunity to look at what we have achieved this quarter as well as look forward to the College’s priorities over the coming months.
We know that MPs have recently approved compulsory vaccinations for care home staff in England, and it is expected that the Department of Health and Social Care will launch a consultation on whether to extend this to other health and social care settings. While we do not know what the proposals will be, Council have agreed that the College would be opposed to mandatory vaccination and instead are in favour of it being a matter of professional responsibility. Nevertheless, we look forward to seeing the details of the proposals when they are published and examining them further.
As lockdown measures are gradually being lifted, it is also important we considered what the College’s post-lockdown operating model might look like. Despite the uncertainty ahead, Chief Executive Paul Rees led an important discussion on the options for the College's post-lockdown service delivery model. You can read the minutes of Council on the members section of the website when they are published - please do have a look.