Bracing ourselves for winter
24 November, 2022
Within our own services, and as reported across the media, it's clear that the country is preparing for a tough winter. Demand for mental health services has grown significantly since the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis is only going to exacerbate these existing strains. I truly understand the pressure that all of you are under, and I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your incredible service.
On Thursday last week, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delivered his long-awaited Autumn Statement, setting out the UK government’s economic plans. The Chancellor was right to commit to the long overdue, independently verified workforce plan, and we look forward to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care producing a timeline for its publication.
However, it’s clear that we urgently need £450m, the amount required to ensure the Government’s commitment of £2.3bn in real terms by 2023/24, just to address the gap in mental health funding caused by inflation alone.
Earlier this month, the four UK Chief Medical Officers, NHS England’s National Medical Director and the CEO at the General Medical Council have written to services across the UK in primary and secondary care on the need to recognise how the context and environment of winter pressures will impact on clinical decision making and actions.This letter is an important recognition of current pressures, and I would encourage you all to take the time to read it.
We also know that COVID-19 and flu are still around and adding a tricky layer to everything else services are coping with. I’ve now received my autumn booster and flu jab, and I would like to take the opportunity to encourage members to take up the vaccines for their own wellbeing and to protect those that they treat and care for.
A lack of psychiatrists is one of the biggest barriers to delivering the care that mental health patients need as soon as possible. At the moment, nearly a quarter of patients (23%) wait more than 12 weeks to start treatment.
Now in its sixth year, the College’s annual Choose Psychiatry campaign is well underway. In 2020 and 2021, the campaign helped to fill 100% of core psychiatry training posts. This year not only are we encouraging medical students and foundation doctors to Choose Psychiatry, but we’re also extending its remit to encourage core trainees already working in the profession to remain - to continue to Choose Psychiatry.
You and your networks can also get involved and support the campaign through sharing graphics on social media, watching and sharing our videos, and much more.
I’m so grateful that I Chose Psychiatry, and it would be fantastic if we can encourage a whole new generation to do the same.
Earlier this month I attended the British Pakistani Psychiatrists Association (BPPA) Annual Conference, which was supported by the Association of Pakistani Physicians of Northern Europe (APPNE). The BPPA do fantastic work representing Psychiatrists & Allied Professionals of Pakistani heritage and cultural affiliation in UK.
The conference was a fantastic opportunity to meet with colleagues and share learnings. I was honoured to take part in a panel session on equality, diversity and inclusion, and had the opportunity to talk about all the work the College has been doing around my presidential priorities.
Increasingly, there has been focus across the UK on the issue of assisted dying, with Jersey, Scotland and the Isle of Man considering proposals respectively. While the College believes that changes to law are for Parliament and the Courts to consider, its willing to advise on matters relating to persons suffering from mental disorders or those who lack mental capacity.
In the Isle of Man, a majority of the House of Keys voted for the introduction of a private members’ bill for terminally ill adults in May this year.
In Scotland, the Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill has recently secured support to be introduced in the Scottish Parliament.
In October, the Government of Jersey released its consultation report on assisted dying, setting 14 January 2023 as the deadline for responses. The College will be responding directly to the public consultation, focusing on aspects of the report that would directly impact our members, and the services in which they operate, should the proposals be implemented. The Policy and Campaigns team will be seeking views from across the College to inform our response.
Earlier this month, the College’s Board of Trustees and Council endorsed the proposal by myself and fellow College Officers to hold a Special Meeting of the College on 28 November. This in-person event at Prescot Street will consider enabling the College to hold online Annual General Meetings (AGMs) and Extraordinary General Meetings (EGMs) as a matter of routine.
Later that day, psychiatrists from all over the UK will have the opportunity to come together as part of the final stages of the College’s first-ever Mindmasters quiz competition. We have all four nations represented in the finals, with Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the London Division all scoring highest at the heats held in Edinburgh at Congress. I look forward to seeing many of you there!