A special dinner
23 February, 2023
Many around the world will have been holding romantic candlelit dinners for Valentine’s Day this month - but at Prescot Street, we hosted a special dinner for Health Education England (HEE), with senior staff attending.
I’m pleased that we continue to have a good working relationship with HEE who have provided funding for several important RCPsych projects including our Choose Psychiatry campaign, our Eating Disorders Pilot Credential and our National Autism Training Programme.
During the dinner - with Chair of HEE Sir David Behan CBE, Chief Executive Dr Navina Evans CBE, Professor Wendy Reid, Medical Director and Professor Wendy Burn CBE, National Mental Health Clinical Advisor - we discussed the growing gap between workforce demand and supply; and the importance of comprehensive workforce planning at a national level. The College also highlighted the high workloads reported by all of you, as well as feelings of a poor work-life balance and pressures on CPD.
Ensuring we support staff is one of my presidential priorities and so we continued to raise the need for HEE to take measures to improve retention rates of mental health staff, alongside recruitment initiatives. HEE staff were receptive to our priorities. They took a keen interest in public mental health and prevention. I very much look forward to working with them further.
As we make our way through the period of change as HEE merges with NHS England, I hope that mental health will continue to remain high on their agenda.
Remembering Thomas Kennedy
Last week was a difficult week for those of us at RCPsych who were informed of the passing of one of our most popular and longest-serving members of staff, Thomas Kennedy.
I have worked with Thomas throughout my 25 years of having a role with the College and he was often the first person members would meet when they came to the College. He did so much to nurture the links the College has with people with lived experience.
Thomas also held the role of Co-Chair of the Sexuality Gender Equality and Inclusion (SGEI) Forum, for College staff.
I know that Thomas was delighted to hear of the news that the College has now been awarded a Stonewall Gold Award for its commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusivity. On top of this, it has been ranked the 90th top employer in the UK for LGBTQ+ inclusivity.
Thomas will be greatly missed.
Sending solidarity to Turkey and Syria
I have been deeply affected by the news about the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. My thoughts continue to be with all our members whose families and friends have been impacted by this disaster.
The College is fortunate to have built up knowledge from the response it has provided to other international emergencies, and these resources are available on our website. Also, the College’s Psychiatrists’ Support Service is available to all members who find themselves needing support during this difficult time. Our International Team are in contact with Turkish colleagues to see what support we can offer.
Our international partnerships are incredibly important, and I hope that for the remainder of my presidency, I will be able to see some of the vital work our members are doing around the world. This weekend I will be attending the Ukrainian Psychiatric Association’s Conference in Warsaw.
Preparing for transition
This month I had the opportunity to meet with my recently announced successor, Dr Lade Smith CBE. As a College, we are starting to prepare for a smooth transition in Presidencies and I know that Lade is looking forward to the challenge. I believe she will be a visionary leader for the profession and I am excited to see her shape the years ahead for the mental health sector.
Her dedication to her role as RCPsych Presidential Lead for Race and Equality has been second to none. I am immensely proud of how far the College has come in relation to equality, diversity and inclusion.
Recovery of Urgent and Emergency Care
Many of you will know all too well that increasing numbers of people have been presenting to A&E requiring mental health support throughout the pandemic. It's clear that children have been bearing the brunt of this mental health crisis. Back in April 2021, our analysis showed that 18,269 children and young people needed urgent or emergency crisis care - including assessments to see if someone needs to be sectioned because they or others are at harm - an increase of 18% on 2019.
Further, our October 2022 analysis showed there was increasing demand on emergency services or a crisis line in the absence of mental health support. 12% of those on a hidden waiting list said they went to A&E, 7% rang 999, 16% contacted 111 and 27% turning to a crisis line.
We know that the 24/7 nature of mental illness makes it all the more important that services are made available around the clock, and that the right expertise is available to support those who need it. We’ve been working hard to ensure mental health is considered in the development of the Urgent and Emergency Care recovery plan, which was published on 30 January 2023, and we were encouraged by the plan’s commitments to improve mental health support. In particular, its positive to see proposals to expand the mental health workforce within UEC and mental health services.
You can read my full response to the plan. I look forward to engaging with NHS England as the plan is implemented.
Announcement on CASC
This month the College announced that following an extensive review of its assessment strategy, the College will be changing the delivery of its CASC examination. Subject to final GMC approval, from September 2023, the CASC will be delivered face-to-face in the UK, with international centres for face-to-face delivery being introduced in 2024.
This change will provide for increased capacity and enable candidates to better demonstrate that they meet the key capabilities outlined in last year’s launch of the 2022 curriculum.
Please take the time to read the full update and view any FAQs.