The Coronation of King Charles, Patron of the Royal College of Psychiatrists
25 May, 2023
On behalf of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, I send our congratulations to King Charles, who became patron of our College in 1984. I wish you a long and successful reign and thank you for your support and patronage over many years.
Celebrating our progress promoting Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
This month, Officers from RCPsych were invited to join psychiatrists from across the globe at the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Annual Meeting in San Francisco. The theme of this year’s meeting was innovation, collaboration and motivation, in order to chart the future of mental health. It is fitting that this mirrors some of the values we have as a College, and I had the privilege of talking about some of the amazing work that we are doing and will continue to do, to promote equality, diversity and inclusion.
Reflecting on the progress we’ve made so far in this area, I was also extremely proud to see that the Memcom EDI Award was amongst the nine Memcom Awards we have been shortlisted for this year.
Supporting those affected by the crisis in Sudan
Earlier this month, following a letter of support, I met with Dr Tarig Salah, President of the Sudanese Psychiatrists Association in the UK and Ireland, to express our support and offer the RCPsych’s friendship following the eruption of conflict in Sudan. We highlight the availability of RCPsych’s Psychiatric Support Service (PSS) which is a free and confidential telephone support service available to all members, our patient leaflets, also available in Arabic to share with anyone in need back home, and lastly our humanitarian resources page featuring a free eLearning module on Complex humanitarian emergencies as well as a recording of our members' webinar on Psychological First Aid.
Our hearts go out to all affected in Sudan and abroad and although the road to lasting peace may be long and challenging, the people of Sudan have shown remarkable resilience and determination to build a better future for themselves and their communities.
Marking Mental Health Awareness Week
This year's Mental Health Awareness Week took place from 15 to 21 May. To mark it, we continue to urge everyone to look out for those with mental illness and ensure they are receiving professional support for both their physical and mental health problems. We also call on the Government to close the mortality gap and ensure everyone with a severe mental illness receives an annual physical health check.
The role of ‘care navigators’
This month the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England announced a new GP access recovery plan. Training ‘care navigators’ to redirect patients to other specialists, such as mental health practitioners, within primary care networks could help some patients be seen quicker. Early treatment for mental illness means better outcomes for patients and less pressure on beds and in A&E.
While we welcome this announcement, patients will not receive the care they need if there is not an adequate mental health workforce in place to support them. According to recent data, for example, only 62% of primary care networks have a mental health practitioner in post.
Over the last year we have seen record referrals for mental health treatment, and services are already critically overstretched. That is why it is vital the Government urgently publish the promised workforce plan.
Mental health issues for new and expectant mums
The College urges new and expectant mums who are struggling with their mental health to reach out and ask for professional support, as new data from NHS England shows one in six NHS Trusts are still struggling to report if they are screening every pregnant woman for mental health issues at their 10-week antenatal booking appointment in line with clinical guidelines. This is a critical opportunity to identify women who may need professional mental health support during and following pregnancy.
An estimated one in five new and expectant mums develop a perinatal mental illness such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and psychosis. Left untreated, these illnesses can have a devastating impact on the lives of the woman, their newborn child and other family members. Mental illness is the leading cause of maternal death in the first year after birth.
I am pleased that this has received high levels of coverage in the media this month, and on the back of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week, the College calls on NHS England to urgently publish data showing if NHS Trusts are screening every pregnant woman for mental health issues at their 10-week antenatal booking appointment.
Debt and mental health
We have joined forces with Mental Health UK and Dr Chris Fitch, Vulnerability Lead at the Money Advice Trust, to develop a research and intervention programme on debt and mental health, culminating in a guide for use by health and social care professionals across the country.
People living with a mental illness often live under financial strain. They are more likely to have less income and more financial hardship and debt than those living without a mental illness. This highlights the value of the ‘ Final Demand’ guide which encourages and provides advice for social care professionals to ask the people they’re supporting about their financial circumstances, helping them to access free debt advice before they reach crisis point.
Penultimate month as President
This month I have had the pleasure of joining events such as the Liaison Faculty Conference, the Psychiatric Trainee Committee Conference and the Trent Division Spring Conference to talk about my tenure as the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
It has been a great opportunity to reflect on some of the amazing work that we as a College have done, from responding to challenges such as the pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis and industrial action, to the progress made in my four presidential priorities; parity of esteem, championing equality, diversity and inclusion, supporting the workforce and putting sustainability at the heart of what we do.