Why our EGM really matters
06 September, 2022
Our President has written a blog post about this Thursday's special meeting.
In two days’ time, we’ll be holding the RCPsych’s first-ever Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM).
The purpose of this special meeting is to consider two changes to the College constitution, being put forward by our Council with strong backing from me and the rest of the College Officers.
The proposed changes are to:
- Extend voting rights to College Affiliates, and
- Enable the College to hold online general meetings, as a matter of course.
In total, we have around 1,519 College Affiliates, with 1,153 of them being SAS doctors.
This group of SAS doctors is a core part of our 2,641-strong SAS doctor cohort.
Affiliates have not passed the MRCPsych exam, nor are they on the GMC specialist register.
But they work on the frontline of psychiatry – and many of them have devoted many, many years to working as a psychiatrist.
Our College Affiliates are a very diverse group of doctors.
- 64% of them are Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic.
- 45% are women.
But, like most SAS doctors, many have felt excluded and alienated in the workplace and within the College for a long time.
They often feel looked down upon and treated differently.
This was shown to us by the feedback that they and other SAS doctors gave to our SAS Doctors’ focus group, held in the lead up to last year’s RCPsych membership survey.
In fact, the sense of alienation among our SAS doctors was so strong that the company doing the research got in touch with us specifically to tell us just how alienated they were.
They told us they were one of the most alienated groups of doctors they had ever interviewed at a medical royal college.
Given this backdrop, I firmly believe that giving our College Affiliates the vote is an equality, diversity and inclusion issue.
And that is a view shared by all our Officers.
Now, of course, not everyone agrees with our proposals.
I have had a number of letters from College members who oppose the extension of voting rights.
They believe our proposal will undermine the value of the MRCPsych and make people question whether it is worth taking the exam.
They also believe that making this rule change would alter the nature of the College, making it more of a college for mental health than a college for psychiatrists.
As a College member for many years, I respect the views of all of our members and I respect the views of those people who oppose extending voting rights.
But I don’t agree with them.
Very little at the College would actually change.
The MRCPsych will continue to be the gold standard indicator of excellence in psychiatry.
As is the case now, only those who pass the exam would be able to use the MRCPsych post-nominal.
Only those who pass the exam would be able to become a full Member or Fellow of the College.
And only those who pass the exam and enter the specialist register, via the CESR or CCT routes, would be able to work as a consultant psychiatrist.
The MRCPsych is now more popular than ever, and last year a record 4,661 people sat at least one part of the MRCPsych.
Delivering the exam will continue to be the single most important activity that we carry out.
And we will continue to celebrate and honour those amazing members who pass the MRCPsych, by holding our popular New Members’ Ceremonies at our Prescot Street headquarters.
Allowing our Affiliates to vote in College elections and at College meetings does not take anything away from the MRCPsych.
If the change goes through, Affiliates will not be able to stand to be President, Registrar, Dean or Treasurer.
In fact, they would not be able to stand for any Council role, other than being the Chair of the SAS Committee.
And they would not get College post-nominals. An earlier proposal to allow this to happen has now been dropped.
Going forward, they would have to show that they are working as a psychiatrist in the UK, they have worked as a doctor in psychiatry for at least three years, they are a qualified medical practitioner, and have met the criteria of their post as set out by the Department of Health and Social Care.
Extending the vote to Affiliates would simply enable us to be more inclusive and supportive.
I hope that, like me, you will attend the EGM and vote for extended voting rights for Affiliates on Thursday night – as well for allowing us to hold our general meetings online as a matter of course.
However, if you come along and oppose the motion, I will respect your perspective.
Whatever the outcome of the vote on Thursday, we will all continue to be part of One College. One speciality.
And we will all continue to promote the benefits of psychiatry and work towards the delivery of excellent patient care.