My personal message: why we need to change
16 June, 2022
Please see my subsequent blog post relating to the 2022 AGM.
As you may know, next week we are holding our Annual General Meeting – at which I hope we can rectify an historic wrong.
First, I’m pleased to say the meeting, at 8.30am on Monday, will be opened up for members to attend online, following agreement by our Board, today, to change our antiquated rules that only allowed for our AGMs to be held face-to-face.
We had held our AGMs in 2020 and 2021 online but that was only because all charities were given express permission by the Charity Commission to deviate from their normal rules due to the pandemic.
We had already planned to change the old-fashioned College rule stating that our AGMs could only be held face-to-face, for future years, and it was one of the changes to our rules that we had proposed in our papers for this year’s AGM, the link to which was sent out to all members on 25 May.
Details on how to log into the AGM remotely on Monday will be sent out at midday tomorrow (Friday) and will also be available on the website.
Please watch my video explaining why we have to right this wrong. You can also find the video below.
At the meeting, the key rule change we are proposing is to introduce voting rights for hard-working, frontline SAS doctors, those who have become consultants without taking our exam, and psychiatrists based overseas.
This proposal would right, what I believe, is a long-standing wrong, whereby SAS doctors and others who have come through non-traditional routes have been left to feel unsupported and undervalued, by our College for many years.
These members have always paid a significant subscription to our organisation but because they could not vote they were unable to play a full part in the democratic functioning of the College.
Under our proposed changes, College Affiliates, Specialist Associates, and International Associates would also get new post-nominals.
The MRCPsych would of course remain the unique post-nominal for those psychiatrists who take our gold standard exam, which is rightfully respected around the world, after trainees have progressed through the learning and assessment involved.
Making this change is, in my view, a key equality and inclusion issue and is in line with our values – as it’s all about respecting and including our colleagues across the specialty.
The sense of being undervalued, felt by so many SAS doctors and others, was painfully highlighted in the focus groups we held in preparation for our membership survey last summer.
One staff grade doctor said:
“I think it is difficult for some SAS doctors who are not all members of the College to feel included and to feel the College is inclusive, because, in my view, undeniably the College is focused and weighted towards people who have full membership.”
“As a specialty doctor, as an Affiliate first, I really noticed there was a lacking of communication. I felt very isolated. As a specialty doctor, I didn't get a huge amount of important emails and important communication. And I think they're missing out in that respect, a huge proportion of people that they should be communicating with. There's a tendency to sort of focus on people who are within a particular training pathway.”
A third doctor said:
“We don't have full voting rights. I think that is a really big issue for me.”
The proposal to increase voting rights and create the new post-nominals is backed by the whole of your officer team and has been unanimously supported by the RCPsych Council, which is the democratically elected body of the College. The plan was also endorsed by our Board of Trustees.
All told, these proposals have followed the usual College governance route and have been agreed by representatives you have voted for on Faculties, Devolved Nations and Divisions.
This governance process exists to ensure due diligence and safeguard against the risk of policy by social media.
The amendments embody the College values – and reflect what many other Medical Royal Colleges do.
Under the proposals, Fellowship will only be available to those on the specialist register, after 10 years of service, all of whom have gone through the CESR route. The additional safeguard of scrutiny of Fellowship applications, as is current practice, would continue to apply.
Nobody will get MRCPsych without passing the exam.
In detail, our proposals – which were posted on the College website on 25 May – are that:
- Affiliates will become entitled to vote in general meetings and elections of the College and be able to use the post-nominal AffRCPsych.
- International Associates will become entitled to vote in general meetings and elections of the College and be able to use the post-nominal ARCPsych.
- Specialist Associates will become entitled to apply for Fellowship of the College after 10 years membership and will also have the right to use the post-nominal SpARCPsych. Their applications will be considered by the Nominations Committee to ensure they meet the standards or distinction expected of a Fellow of RCPsych. Specialist Associates already have the right to vote at general meetings and in elections of the College.
International Associates as well as Affiliates will need to be nominated by two existing members and then approved by a process agreed by Council.
There will also be a power for the Board of Trustees to adopt a Code of Conduct to apply to all Trustees, Council members, Officers, Members, Associates and Affiliates, introduced.
In other proposed changes being put forward at the AGM:
- Students at international medical schools, recognised by the equivalent of the GMC in other countries and by the Council of the College, would become eligible to become Student Associates.
- The cap on the number of people who can be Mental Health Associates at the College would be removed, to increase its engagement with allied mental health professionals who work in multidisciplinary teams with psychiatrists. These people would not get the vote within our College.
- The UK Council would be renamed the Council of the College to reflect the global membership of the College rather than just the UK.
- The Chairs of the International Divisions would become members of the Council of the College and will attend meetings online.
- Provision is to be made for virtual meetings of the College including general and special meetings.
All the details are available on our Annual General Meeting 2022 page.
I hope this explains the rationale and the rigorous process around our proposed changes – which I believe are a natural next step in our values-based journey as an inclusive, progressive and caring Medical Royal College.