What about the mental health recovery?
24 February, 2022
This month the NHS released their elective recovery plan to help people with physical health issues. We welcome this plan as it recognises the increased demand faced by the health service and provides some clarity for patients, some of whom will be living with mental illness.
However, the Government cannot afford to neglect mental health recovery any longer. Record numbers of people are seeking help from mental health services that are over-stretched and under resourced.
Just this month, the College has drawn attention to the latest data on eating disorders, which shows that the number of under-19s waiting for routine treatment has reached record levels while those waiting for urgent care is the second highest on record. In the third quarter of 2021/22, 1,918 patients were waiting for routine treatment - a 57.7% increase on last year.
I’ve continued to highlight to leaders in the NHS and the Government why we urgently need a fully-funded mental health recovery plan to ensure everyone with a mental illness can get the help they need, when they need it. As I highlight in my op-ed in the HSJ, if the Government is genuinely serious about 'levelling-up', they need to tackle the disparity between funding for physical health and mental health and deliver the funding that mental health services need.
Working with the NHS Race and Health Observatory
I’m honoured to be on the board of the NHS Race and Health Observatory. They are an important organisation who are working to examine the health inequalities experienced by Black and minority ethnic communities in England.
They have now released the findings and recommendations following their rapid review of evidence on ethnic inequalities in healthcare and within the NHS workforce. The university-led review explores differences in reference to access, experiences of, and outcomes in mental healthcare, maternal and neonatal healthcare, digital access to healthcare, genetic testing and genomic medicine and the NHS workforce.
Their findings are damning and send a clear message that the Government and the NHS must do more to stop the healthcare system from failing ethnic minority people.
The review found evidence to suggest clear barriers to seeking help for mental health problems rooted in a distrust of both primary care and mental health care providers, as well as a fear of being discriminated against in healthcare. One study in the review showed that Black children were 10 times more likely to be referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) via social services rather than their GP service, in comparison to White British children.
It cannot be right that the colour of someone’s skin significantly shapes their access to mental health treatment, their experience of treatment and the outcome of their treatment.
The Government and the NHS must do more. The College has released an initial response, and we look forward to exploring the report in greater depth in the coming weeks.
Although there is a long way to go to tackle some of the issues raised in the report, last year, the College launched our Advancing Mental Health Equality (AMHE) Collaborative aimed at supporting mental health care providers to reduce mental health inequalities in their local areas. This month the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges invited me to present to the other college Presidents on this work so they can learn about the programme. I encourage all colleagues to explore the AMHE resources and how they might help transform their own services.
Another ongoing area of collaboration with the NHS Race and Health Observatory is the Nationality and Borders Bill. The Observatory asked me to write a blog post for their website to talk about the work the College has been doing behind the scenes to highlight some of its unintended consequences for those who are seeking asylum in the UK.
We consider that without the implementation of proper protections, including proper assessments on arrival, the Bill will worsen the mental health of refugees and migrants. It also fails to recognise that those with mental illness have particular difficulty being self-advocates; something that is fundamental within the asylum process. This is something that must be addressed in order to protect the most vulnerable.
Paying tribute to Dr Gary Jenkins
This month the College paid tribute to Dr Gary Jenkins, a psychiatrist who was brutally murdered in a homophobic attack in a Cardiff park. We are deeply shocked by this gruesome attack and murder of a much-loved colleague. We extend our deepest sympathies to all his friends, family and colleagues.
There is no room in society for anti LGBTQ+ violence or any hate crime.
If any of you have been affected by this tragic killing, I encourage you to contact the Psychiatrists’ Support Service (PSS).
New curricula pilot
Earlier this month the College launched a pilot roll-out of all curricula for CT1 and ST4 new starter trainees. This is part of an ongoing curricula review which will be implemented for everyone else in August 2022.
Around 300 people in total will start core and higher training on the new curricula pilot and it will give the College invaluable feedback and insight into our implementation plans and systems.
This has been a huge task for all those involved but I would particularly like to thank Dr John Russell, our Associate Dean for Curricula, who has worked tirelessly to ensure the process has run smoothly.
A trip to Windsor
As you will know, one of my four priorities as President is putting sustainability at the heart of all that we do.
Therefore, I was privileged to be invited to a two-day event at St George’s House in Windsor to discuss public health and climate change. The disruption to life posed by climate and ecological degradation presents an unprecedented threat to human health. We know that a collective response to this threat is required. It was good to meet with so many leaders in the field to discuss how we can work together to secure all of our futures.