A mental health workforce for the future
28 October, 2021
This month I had a slightly more typical experience as President of the College as I’ve been doing more travelling around the country by train. While COVID-19 has always been in the back of my mind, it was exciting to meet with people face to face rather than from my spare room in Devon.
I began October with a trip to Manchester for the Conservative Party Conference. This was a great opportunity to mingle with those in government and key figures from the wider health sector. While I was there, I attended a roundtable which posed the question “what does the future of the NHS workforce look like?” I was able to highlight to the politicians in attendance that without trained staff, mental health services will continue to face barriers to expansion.
While there, I was also able to meet with Dean Russell MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Mental Health, No. 10 Advisor Chloe Westley, Chair of the British Medical Association Council Chaand Nagpul and colleagues from other Royal Colleges.
Amongst all the policy announcements, speeches and panel discussions, I hope that all sides of the political spectrum came away from the conference season with a recognition that action is needed to deal with the challenges we face in the mental health sector.
Spending Review 2021
Yesterday, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak stood in Parliament to deliver the conclusions of the 2021 Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) in an autumn budget. This laid out the Government's spending plans for England over a three-year period, 2022-2025.
I spoke about the College's evidence submission to the CSR in my last blog post, which I hope reflected the challenges that so many of us are facing on the frontline. You can read our full submission on the College website.
It was disappointing to see that the Government’s warm words on tackling the mental health fall-out of the pandemic have not been followed up with appropriate investment. There were a small number of welcome announcements on strengthening early years support and completing the ongoing effort to eliminate dormitories. But these were pocket change in the face of unprecedented demand, a crumbling estate and chronic workforce shortages. Indeed, the announcement to lower alcohol duties stood in stark contrast to the failure to invest in overstretched addition services despite the conclusions of the Dame Carol Black Review earlier this year.
Over the coming weeks, we will be engaging with NHS England to gain a better understanding of how broader NHS funding announcements will translate into progress for mental health. With the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care having promised a forthcoming mental health strategy, we will also be engaging with Government to ensure this is ambitious and backed with appropriate funding.
We have also now launched our latest Choose Psychiatry campaign, including this wonderful film. This is an exciting opportunity to hear some incredible stories about why so many of you decided to pursue a career as a psychiatrist.
Our Choose Psychiatry page on the website has some brilliant blog posts from trainees and consultants about why they decided to pursue careers as psychiatrists and the most rewarding aspects of their jobs.
Since the campaign was launched in 2017, it has helped achieve a 100% fill rate in the number of doctors training in psychiatry.
However, we know that there are at least 1.5m people in England are waiting for treatment while a tenth of consultant psychiatrist posts are not filled. The pandemic and the historic mental health backlog have combined to create a perfect storm. The vacancies are causing some patients to wait 18 weeks or longer for treatment. That is why we have called for 7,000 more medical school places and a £1.73bn annual investment so we can ensure that the demand for psychiatric care can be met in the future.
World Mental Health Day
On 10 October we marked World Mental Health Day. The theme this year was mental health in an unequal world. As a College we are already striving to engage better with our overseas members, via the aims set out in our International Strategy. This will enable us to strengthen our voice as a leading mental health organisation, working to improve the standard of care for patients worldwide.
For this year’s event, the College highlighted the areas in which we’re trying to make a difference globally. Our Presidential Lead Professor Mohammad Al-Uzri did a special interview in which he discussed the barriers to mental healthcare and the ways in which people with mental health conditions are disadvantaged. He also discussed his visit to the Pakistan High Commission with Dr Trudi Seneviratne OBE.
My predecessor Professor Wendy Burn wrote a blog post highlighting how we’re developing our patient resources which have been translated into 24 languages and accessed from 235 countries and territories so far this year.
I am proud that as a College we are working to be part of the solution.
Celebrating the College’s achievements
Last but by no means least, I’d like to highlight some of the incredible achievements the College had this last month.
RCPsych’s efforts to support psychiatrists during the pandemic was recognised when we won ‘highly commended’ in the Memcom Awards for Best Member Support by a large organisation. With the leadership of our Chief Executive Paul Rees, and the efforts of our fantastic staff team, we were able to transform areas of our work at an unprecedented pace to continue supplying a fantastic member service. We were also shortlisted for several other Memcom awards including membership organisation of the year and best podcast. This shows the truly exceptional quality of work the College team is doing across so many areas.
I was also immensely pleased to hear that the RCPsych Scotland team has won silver in the prestigious Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) awards for the Public Affairs Campaign of the Year. This was for their No Wrong Door Manifesto campaign to deliver services where there is no wrong door to accessing the right care, in the right place and at the right time.
This is a busy but exciting time for the College, but it is also a busy time for so many of you. I want to thank you for all your hard work supporting our patients, at home, and around the globe.
This blog post was included in the October 2021 eNewsletter.