College EGM on 8 September
11 July, 2022
I’m pleased to confirm that, after the passionate debate that took place around our AGM in June, the RCPsych Council has decided to put the proposal to extend voting rights to College Affiliates – who are mostly SAS doctors – to an extraordinary general meeting on Thursday 8 September at Prescot Street, and other locations across the UK, between 6-9pm.
The debate last month, around whether to extend voting rights to Affiliates, caused a great deal of distress and I have been urged by a broad spectrum of College members to put the matter right by holding an early vote – so that we can do the right thing and ensure Affiliates are properly included as a part of the College family.
When I was elected as President, I said I would place equality, diversity and inclusion centre-stage and, in my view, extending voting rights to Affiliates is part of that agenda.
In hindsight, I believe we could have done better in engaging with College members in the lead up to last month’s AGM and better explained what people were being asked to vote on – and that is something we will improve upon this time round.
We will issue a special edition of RCPsych Insight to explain exactly what is being proposed.
The Officers and I will hold two webinars to explain what we are suggesting, and to take questions - one webinar at 4pm on 21 July, the other webinar at 4pm on 2 August.
We will also hold an online consultation on the matter from late July until 15 August. The period for this consultation will necessarily be constrained due to the need to analyse the feedback prior to 8 September.
At the EGM, we will simply be putting forward two proposals – the one on extending voting rights to Affiliates, who have worked for three or more years in psychiatry, and another to allow us to routinely hold AGMs and EGMs online.
Currently, our rules say that our AGMs and EGMs have to be held face-to-face, and that all voting has to be done on a show of hands. We feel this is very old-fashioned.
The only reason we were able to hold online AGMs in 2020 and 2021 is because the Charity Commission said that, due to the pandemic, charities could set aside their normal AGM rules. This dispensation has now been rescinded.
The reason we could hold this year’s AGM as a hybrid event is that our lawyers said it would be defensible to hold it partially online due to the severe train strikes on the day of the AGM, which would have made it difficult for people to attend, and the increasing COVID infection rates. They say that this time around there would be no such defence.
It is because of this situation, that we have decided to hold the EGM in parallel at several locations across the UK, including our main office at Prescot Street, central London, and venues in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
Further details on the exact list of venues for the EGM will be announced in the lead up to the event.
At last month’s AGM, the Officers and I were proposing a string of amendments to modernise the way we do things, but looking back we now believe the package of changes – including an idea to create new post-nominals for people other than those who have the MRCPsych – was too broad.
We have now put the post-nominals idea in abeyance. In fact, I have decided that the proposal on new post-nominals will not be tabled again during my presidency, which ends next summer.
A host of other ideas proposed at last month’s AGM have also been set to one side for now, including the following proposals:
- Specialist Associates becoming entitled to apply for Fellowship of the College after 10 years
- International Associates becoming entitled to vote in general meetings and elections of the College
- students at international medical schools recognised by the equivalent of the GMC in other countries and by Council becoming eligible to be Student Associates
- the current annual and total limits on the numbers of people who can be Mental Health Associates of the College being removed, so that the College can increase its engagement with allied mental health professionals who work in multi-disciplinary teams with psychiatrists
- introducing a power for the Board of Trustees to adopt a Code of Conduct to apply to all Trustees, Council members, Officers, Members, Associates, Affiliates
- Annual Elections during an Officer’s tenure of office only being called following a vote of Council.
Council and the Board of Trustees, which have endorsed our proposed way ahead, have agreed that two further ideas will be put to next year’s AGM.
These are that:
- the UK Council is renamed the Council of the College, to recognise that the College has members around the world
- the Chairs of International Divisions to become full members of Council – while being expected to attend online to minimise cost and environmental impact.
Being a Medical Royal College, governed by a Royal Charter and a Supplemental Charter, as well as Bye-Laws and Regulations, and being accountable to the Charity Commission and Privy Council, we have old fashioned and complex rules, which means change is difficult.
However, with better engagement and communications on the two proposed changes, I am hopeful that the EGM will be a successful event with the two proposals now being put forward eventually being ratified.
Dr Adrian James