Thank you for 2022
15 December, 2022
Season's greetings from me and everyone at RCPsych!
This – my last blog of 2022 would be over 100 pages long if I were to reflect on all the fantastic things we’ve done as a College this year. I’ve talked about many of these achievements (as well as challenges) throughout the last 12 months, but today I’d like to begin by expressing my immense gratitude to all of you.
Mental health services have come under increasing strain as we’ve emerged from the pandemic, and the cost-of-living crisis has only exacerbated these existing pressures. Yet, you’ve all risen to the challenge. Your tireless dedication to promoting high-quality mental health services that best serve our communities is second to none. Thank you for your commitment to supporting patients all around the world.
On one of the coldest weeks of the year in the UK, I’d like to wish you all a warm and relaxing festive season.
Remembering those we’re leaving behind
Last week, the College took the time to celebrate the life of Dr Thomas Bewley CBE, past-President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists 1984-1987. He was a truly remarkable person, whose life’s work will be remembered for many decades to come.
He led in changing the way many view drug and alcohol dependence and made important contributions to their study. His book, Madness to Mental Illness: A History of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, is still referred to today.
The memorial, held at 21 Prescot Street, was attended by many who knew Dr Bewley, including members of his family, Susan, Emma and Hannah Bewley, Thomas’ eldest and youngest daughters and his granddaughter. He will be greatly missed.
I’d also like to acknowledge the recent sad passing of two of our Honorary Fellows; Dame Clare Marx and Professor Robert Bluglass CBE.
Dame Clare was the first woman President of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, serving from July 2014 to July 2017. She will be remembered for being a role model across all medical professions.
Robert was one of the first consultant forensic psychiatrists appointed in the UK and went on to be Vice President of the College 1983-85. He played a key role in the establishment of regional secure units.
I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to all of their family and friends.
An important dinner
College Officers welcomed members of NHS England’s new leadership team to our London office last Thursday to discuss how the two organisations can continue to work together to ensure mental health is prioritised.
Amanda Pritchard (CEO), Richard Meddings (Chair), Steve Powis (National Medical Director) and Chris Hopson (Chief Strategy Officer) stayed for a brilliant meal by the College’s catering staff and a productive discussion on how we can support each other to improve outcomes for our patients. We were able to highlight some of the key issues facing all of you; pressures on our workforce, winter challenges, as well as the setting up of the new integrated care systems.
It's clear that we have much in common and share similar challenges and I’m sure that this is just the beginning of a truly fruitful relationship.
The Online Safety Bill
I’m delighted that the Online Safety Bill has returned to the House of Commons following repeated delays resulting from recent changes in government.
The Conservative Party made a manifesto commitment to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online and said it would place duties on social media companies to protect people, specifically children and young people. The tragic suicide of teenager Molly Russell highlights how children and young people are in desperate need of this better protection online.
In advance of its return, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Michelle Donelan MP, confirmed the government will drop duties for social media companies to protect adults from legal but harmful content. Despite these changes, the Government insists they will strengthen protections for children and young people online.
The College has been briefing Parliamentarians on our concerns and views on the Bill, ahead of a debate in the House of Commons. Specifically, we’ve been calling on the Government to protect young people from the potential dangers to mental health from the addictive nature of social media sites. We’re also working with the Mental Health Foundation, Young Minds, and other mental health organisations to campaign for the Bill to improve media literacy online.
Following the debate, the Secretary of State confirmed the Bill will return to a ‘short’ Committee Stage to review the recent changes. This is a very unusual move and hasn’t happened for around 20 years and many are now concerned the Bill will be further delayed and therefore fail to pass in time.
However, I’m clear that the College will continue to campaign to improve the Bill and make sure the Government prioritise it. It's vital that the much-needed protections can come into effect as soon as possible.
Wishing you all the best of the New Year
I know that 2023 will bring with it some new challenges but also some incredible opportunities. I look forward to welcoming many new members to the College and passing the baton to your new President come the summer.
I hope that you have all now received your copy of the winter issue of RCPsych Insight magazine which reminds you all to vote in the Presidential election. Please take the time to read about our fantastic candidates; Dr Kate Lovett, Professor Russell Razzaque and Dr Lade Smith CBE.
Finally, I’d like to wish you and your families a very happy new year!
This blog post was included in our December 2022 eNewsletter.