Psychiatry at home and abroad
26 May, 2022
This month, Officers from RCPsych were invited to join psychiatrists from across the globe at two different annual events; the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) Annual Congress and the American Psychiatric Association Meeting. Both were fantastic multi-day conferences with packed agendas.
The RANZCP Annual Congress was full of interesting discussions which reflected on the pandemic from an Australasian perspective. RCPsych held a Members Networking Reception in Sydney which gave us the opportunity to meet with those of you who we would otherwise rarely be able to see in person. Chief Executive Paul Rees and I met with RANZCP President Associate Professor Vinay Lakra and RANZCP Chief Executive Andrew Peters to talk about the developing relationship between our two organisations. It was really rewarding to be able to discuss the issues our mental health services are facing following the pandemic.
In the United States, the APA’s conference’s theme was the social determinants of mental health. It was great to hear from so many fantastic speakers throughout the conference, as well as learn about the APA’s anti-racism efforts. RCPsych Officers were invited to present on public mental health from a UK perspective. We used the opportunity to talk about the College’s new Public Mental Health Implementation Centre (PMHIC). I look forward to welcoming Dr Rebecca Brendel, President Elect at the APA, at this year’s RCPsych International Congress.
The pandemic has shown how important it is that we continue to learn from each other and build mental health services that meet modern day challenges and needs.
A royal visit and the Queen’s speech
I was honoured to have been invited to Clarence House this month to meet with HRH The Prince Of Wales, along with Presidents from other Royal Colleges, to discuss how health professionals displaced by war and conflict can be mentored and eased into employment here in the UK. HRH The Prince of Wales is the Patron of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
We also discussed medical provision for asylum seekers, some of whom suffer from serious medical problems. I was able to talk about all the fantastic work the College has been doing to provide guidance for health and social care professionals who come into contact with displaced people.
On 10 May, HRH the Prince of Wales delivered the Queen’s speech in Parliament. This provides the Government with an opportunity to highlight its priorities for the months ahead. I was pleased to be able to discuss the legislation that was set out in the speech with Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, on the day it was announced.
The Government has said they will bring forward long-awaited legislation on the Mental Health Act, covering England and Wales. The College welcomes the reforms which are designed to reduce the number of people detained under current laws, tackling the disproportionate detention of black and minority ethnic communities and changing the law so that neither autism nor learning disabilities are grounds for detention under the Act.
The College will continue to work to ensure the reforms are successfully implemented, which will rely on the Act being accompanied by a robust workforce plan, with investment to deliver it.
While it was positive to see the ban on conversion therapy included in the speech, the decision to exclude trans people from the ban is discriminatory and very disappointing. We urge the government to reconsider this decision to ensure that the ban protects transgender people as well as the wider LGBT+ community.
This month the College worked in partnership with Doctors in Distress to host an event with a focus on workforce wellbeing and learning from COVID-19. I commend the work of organisations like theirs who have tirelessly sought to help health and care workers at this time.
It was great to have so many people from across the mental health and wider health sector present at the event, including representatives from other Royal Colleges. Chair of the General Medical Council, Professor Dame Carrie MacEwen, also took part in discussions.
The day was a good opportunity to reflect on what we’ve learnt about the impact of the pandemic. It is clear that many have experienced feelings of loss, grief and powerlessness, and we know that kindness and emotional support are key to ensuring we can move forwards.
We will be providing Amanda Pritchard, NHS Chief Executive and Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty with key takeaways from the event, as well as some key recommendations. Instilling a sense of belonging and facilitating a culture of openness and honesty have struck me as central to these.
Meeting the new Chair of NHS England
This month I also met with the new Chair of NHS England, Richard Meddings CBE, alongside Paul Famer, Chief Executive of Mind. Richard has taken over from Lord David Prior and began in his post in March 2022. He will be in the role for four years.
This was a terrific opportunity to highlight that we truly are at a crossroads for mental health with demand having grown hugely over the past 24 months, and the NHS currently working on an update to the commitments set out in the NHS Long Term Plan.
We also have some great opportunities with the coming cross-government mental health and wellbeing plan and the mental health act reforms forthcoming.
I'm looking forward to meeting with Richard again soon and continuing to build on this relationship.
Making a difference with MEED
One of the big mental health issues that the NHS now faces is the rise in the number of people presenting with an eating disorder. Our new analysis shows hospital admissions for eating disorders have increased by 84% in the last five years reaching a total of 24,268 admissions.
Importantly, the College has now launched new Medical Emergencies in Eating Disorders (MEED) guidance for frontline staff. This guidance is replacing the Management of Really Sick Patients with Anorexia Nervosa (MARSIPAN) and Junior MARSIPAN guidance. We need to raise awareness of common eating disorders symptoms and our guidance encourages healthcare professionals to spot when someone is dangerously ill.
I was honoured to be able to take part in the launch of the guidance, and I am so pleased that it has had the media coverage it truly deserves with articles in The Guardian, The Independent and the BBC.
I would encourage all of you to share this guidance with your networks to ensure that we stop the eating disorder epidemic in its tracks.
After what has been a very busy month, I am looking forward to seeing many of you at RCPsych’s International Congress in Edinburgh in June.