Catching my breath
25 August, 2022
Although this August has been busier than others in recent years, I was pleased to be able to take two weeks off and spend time with my family and friends.
Nevertheless, earlier this month I had the privilege of joining the World Congress of Psychiatry Conference in Bangkok, Thailand. It was fantastic to meet colleagues from across the globe to discuss the big issues facing psychiatry today – funding, workforce, stigma, rising demand and staff burnout – but also acknowledge the plethora of opportunities.
One of my highlights of the conference was seeing Shevonne Matheiken, a UK trainee, win the WPA three-minute presentation competition. Congratulations Shevonne.
I was also incredibly pleased to hear that Dr Afzal Javed, President of the World Psychiatric Association, has recently received an award from President Alvi – a Pakistan Civil Award “Sitara-I-Imtiaz" – for his services to Pakistan on the 75th Diamond Jubilee Anniversary of the Country. This is richly deserved and I’m so proud that Afzal continues to have such an active role in the College as a Fellow.
The College deeply values the connections we have with those of you living and working overseas, and I want to thank the incredible organisers who made the conference such a fulfilling experience.
Back in the UK
The College continues to progress with its work around the Cross-Government Mental Health and Wellbeing Plan. Following our submission to the Department of Health and Social Care, it is clear that much will be determined by the priorities of the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, once the new Prime minister has been elected.
Regardless of who enters No. 10 and the Department, the College will continue to make the case for an ambitious long-term plan that is designed to promote good health and wellbeing, prevent mental ill health, intervene at the earliest opportunity and to provide universal and timely access to high quality treatment and support for those who need it.
However, in the immediate term, it is good to see that some of the key challenges within inpatient mental health services are beginning to be addressed. I was pleased to see that £75m has been announced by NHS England to help systems with acute bed pressures in certain areas around the country. The College has long highlighted some of the incredible stress that inpatient services have been under, and this money is a welcome step to easing some of this pressure.
An update on Mental Health Act Reform Bill
In June, the Draft Mental Health Bill was published in full which proposes some key changes to the Mental Health Act, including in reference to people with an intellectual disability.
This legislation is fundamental to the work of the College, not least that of one of my recent predecessors, Professor Sir Simon Wessely. It is hoped that the Bill will address disparities in the use of the Act towards people from ethnic minority backgrounds and improve care for prisoners with acute mental health needs.
Now, the Joint Committee on the draft Mental Health Bill has been established by the House of Lords and the House of Commons, to provide pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill. As part of this, it has set up a call for evidence which asks for responses to several questions on the proposed reforms. The College is working on its response in consultation with faculties and committees from across the College. However, as an individual, you can also get involved and submit your response on the Committee’s website.
This is a fantastic opportunity to have your voice heard and make a difference to patients for generations to come.
As I discussed in my last blog post, we will be hosting an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) on 8 September.
At this meeting, the rest of the Officer team and I will be putting forward proposals to extend voting rights to College Affiliates, who are mostly SAS doctors, and to enable us to hold virtual AGMs and EGMs as a matter of course.
The EGM will be held concurrently at our main office at 21 Prescot Street, central London, and eight other locations across the UK, between 6-9pm.
In the lead up to the EGM, we ran a consultation of members and held two Q&A webinars. You can read more about the EGM in our special issue of Insight magazine.
Last week, we released the agenda and papers for the meeting on our website. Do take the time to read through these.
I hope to see you at one of the nine venues on 8 September, and I look forward to a good debate on two very important issues. Whatever happens, I know that we will emerge stronger, as One College, for having had these important debates.
Dame Fiona Caldicott Memorial
I was very sad to hear of the passing of one of my predecessors Dame Fiona Caldicott, last year. Dame Fiona made some incredible contributions to psychiatry and medicine as a whole, not least through the establishment of the Caldicott Principles which sets out how patient information is protected.
She was someone who dedicated her life to public service and her work touching the lives of so many people.
A memorial service for Dame Fiona will take place on 17 September in Oxford and members of the College are invited to attend.
Heading to the Devolved Council
On the day that this blog post is published, I will be in Scotland for the College’s Scotland Devolved Council meeting. I’m excited to meet with our members in Edinburgh (for the second time this year!), and thank them for their incredible contributions to College work.
This is clearly a time of great opportunity for mental health in Scotland with the development of a new Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy to cover the next five years, and the important role the College is playing in responding to the Scottish Review of Mental health Legislation.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr Linda Findlay, Chair of the Devolved Council, who so expertly leads on this work.
This blog post was included in our August 2022 eNewsletter.