Happy Easter, Chag Pesach Sameach, Ramadan Mubarak!
27 April, 2023
Like many of you, in April I managed to take some time off to relax and recharge. As doctors, we know the importance of doing this to safeguard our own wellbeing and the safety of our patients.
For some, this was a special time to celebrate Easter or Passover or observe Ramadan. I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy Easter, Chag Pesach Sameach or Ramadan Mubarak.
Last week Ramadan came to an end, and I’d like to send my warmest good wishes to Muslims in the UK and around the world for Eid al Fitr.
This month I also had the honour and privilege to be invited to be a keynote speaker at the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) Regional Conference in the beautiful and vibrant city of Kolkata, India, which coincided with Bengali New Year. The conference was an incredibly worthwhile and informative event, attended by nearly 1,400 delegates.
I spoke on the mental health impact of the pandemic and attended an inspiring talk by our former President, Dinesh Bhugra on the mental health of sexual minorities. There were also talks on bridging the treatment gap and the biopsychosocial model, as well as a talk on approaches to stigma by the American Psychiatric Association CEO and Honorary Fellow, Dr Saul Levin. I was pleased to hear the uplifting sessions with WPA President, Professor Afzal Javed.
Celebrating our Fellows and Honorary Fellows
CEO Paul Rees, the Officers and I welcomed new Fellows and their families to Prescot Street. This was a special evening and a way to celebrate their step to becoming a fellow. I would like to wish them my heartfelt congratulations for their achievement.
At the ceremony, The British Journal of Psychiatry editor, Professor Kam Bhui CBE, was presented with an Honorary Fellowship. Kam is an expert in cultural psychiatry and is Director of the World Psychiatric Association Collaborating Centre. He has made some incredible contributions to research in mental health, and it was my privilege to award him with the honour.
We also held our Honorary Fellows dinner last week to recognise everyone who has become honorary fellows in the last year. Alongside Kam, Professor Dame Helen Stokes Lampard, Professor David Williams, Dr Stepehen Pilling and Dr Jaswinder Bamrah have all become honorary fellows. This was a really special occasion and a wonderful way to celebrate all of their unique achievements.
The Hewitt Review
Back in November 2022, the government commissioned Patricia Hewitt to lead an independent review of integrated care systems (ICSs). The review was asked to look at the oversight and governance of ICSs, the balance between greater autonomy and robust accountability with a key focus on real time data shared digitally with the Department of Health and Social Care. It also looked at the availability and use of data across the health and care system for transparency and improvement.
On 4 April, the Hewitt review was published, and we were pleased that Patricia called for the necessary focus on reducing elective care waits to be matched by an equal focus on reducing waiting times for acute mental health treatment, alongside the need to urgently publish a fully funded mental health recovery plan.
It was also good to see agreement with our recommendation that the mental health investment standard should remain in place, and the call for greater focus on prevention.
The College is working to understand the recommendations in more detail and looks forward to working with ICB leaders, DHSC and NHS England to understand how we can support implementation.
New First Minister of Scotland
On 29 March 2023, our colleagues in Scotland saw Humza Yousaf officially sworn in as Scotland’s new first Minister.
I know that Dr Linda Findlay, Chair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland, is looking to the new minister to firmly deliver the commitments around mental health already promised by the Scottish Government. There are clearly huge challenges ahead of the new first minister to deliver an efficient mental health service and a solid workforce to support it – which patients so desperately need.
Our gambling warning
Ahead of the Grand National horse race on Saturday 15 April, the College issued a gambling warning. An expert on gambling addictions from the College’s Faculty of Addictions, Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones OBE, highlighted that those who struggle to control their gambling may find the weekend particularly challenging.
The College has been encouraging those who have a gambling disorder to seek help from specialist NHS clinics and put appropriate self-exclusion agreements in place to stop people from gambling online and in person.
Addiction to gambling is a serious public health issue and it is estimated that hundreds of suicides each year are linked to gambling. I am pleased that it has received high levels of coverage in the media this month. Henrietta has really led the way in this space, and I want to thank her for her continued dedication to this important issue.