26 January, 2023
We begin 2023 with some very exciting news. Dr Lade Smith CBE has been announced as the next President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in a ballot which saw a turnout of 39.4% – the highest turnout in a College Presidential election since at least 1996.
I will let Lade introduce herself properly to all of you in due course, but I know that her priorities as RCPsych President will ensure the College goes even further to improve the lives of members and patients. Her dedication to tackling inequalities is one area I have been grateful for her support as President, and I am so glad that this work will continue to be prioritised under her and Paul Rees’ leadership. You can find Lade’s Presidential candidate page on our website.
Lade will take up the role when I demit office on 11 July, at the College AGM.
Thank you to Dr Kate Lovett and Dr Russell Razzaque who led such fantastic campaigns. We really did have an incredibly high caliber of candidates putting their names forward and I know that they will succeed at whatever they do next.
I want to wish Lade my heartfelt congratulations and all the best in what is a challenging but incredibly rewarding role.
WASP Conference this month
I am honoured to have been involved in the three-day Joint World Congress of the RCPsych Rehabilitation and Social Psychiatry Faculty and the World Association of Social Psychiatry (WASP), taking place at Prescot Street. This month’s conference is the first time it has been held in London since 2014 and its theme was Recovery from mental illness: challenges and solutions across the globe.
On the final day of the Congress, I spoke about the post-covid recovery of mental health services and all the work the College has been doing to ensure that patients and staff continue to be supported. I also looked to the new challenges we have in 2023, including the cost-of-living crisis.
It was fantastic to see so many eminent psychiatrists come together for this conference, and to be joined by many important players in the health space. Thank you to all who attended and supported the conference to make it the successful event that it was.
Past President Professor Andrew Sims
Just after my December blog post went out, I heard about the sad passing of Professor Andrew Sims, our past President (1990–1993). Andrew had an incredibly distinguished career as a psychiatrist, holding several College positions including Dean and Chair of the Spirituality Special Interest Group. I would like to send my deepest sympathies to his wife Ruth, their four children and all the people who knew him. He will be greatly missed.
Over in the Houses of Parliament
On Thursday 19 January, the Joint Committee on the draft Mental Health Bill published its report following a period of scrutiny on the proposed legislation.
This is a landmark piece of legislation that provides a significant opportunity to modernise the Mental Health Act (MHA) in England and Wales. We're glad that the committee recommended the final Bill be accompanied by a revised impact assessment, and that the UK Government should publish a comprehensive implementation and workforce plan alongside the Bill. We’re also pleased to see that the committee urges the UK government to strengthen efforts to tackle racial disparities in the Bill. Please do take the time to read the full response to the Report.
It's really important that we get this right and I look forward to the Government carefully considering these recommendations.
I was also pleased to have visited the Houses of Parliament this month to meet with the new Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, Steve Brine MP, alongside other Medical Royal College Presidents. Collectively we highlighted some of the key system pressures currently facing the NHS and the importance of ensuring a strong workforce plan is in place.
Importantly, I highlighted how prevention identifying and reducing inequalities in access, experience and outcomes are essential to the delivery of high-quality mental health care. The Committee has recently opened an inquiry into prevention and the College plans to submit a response.
Engaging with HM Treasury
A few weeks ago, I was invited to meet with senior representatives from the Treasury alongside other stakeholders who are experts in mental health. The Treasury were keen to hear from us about the interaction between the labour markets and the mental health of the nation.
We know that currently 300,000 people living with long-term mental health problems will lose their jobs each year. I made clear that this is an unacceptable situation for the patient, carers and families, as well as wider society. We need to act on this and support people who can remain in work to continue to do so.
Finally, I want to wish you all a very happy new year.