Letter from the Chair, August 2021
13 August, 2021
It is a great privilege to take up the role of Chair of the College in Scotland. I am delighted to be working with Jane Morris as Vice Chair, Pradeep Pasupuleti as Treasurer and Adam Daly as Meetings Secretary.
Professor John Crichton wrote in his last blog post as Chair about legacy and the passing on of the baton and I am truly grateful that the baton being taken up is in such good order. This is in no small part down to John’s leadership, our members’ commitment and our fantastic office team (Laura Hudson, Angela Curie, Susan Richardson, Laura Varney and Aidan Reid) who carry out a bewildering range of duties always with a can-do attitude and smile.
It is this partnership of members, officers and staff which has allowed us to bring about a real difference for members, psychiatry and mental health in Scotland. This includes increases in foundation and core training places, a commitment to increase mental health spending from 8.1% to 10% of the NHS budget by the end of this government’s term, a smooth transition from in-person to online events during the pandemic which allowed us to continue offering members tailored Scottish CPD opportunities, and after many years of lobbying and partnership working, the establishment of a workforce specialist service for sick doctors.
Yet there is more to do and which must be progressed in the context of recovery (perhaps healing) as we move to the next phase of the pandemic and the recovery of services. At a time when mental health and well-being is very much to the fore in Scotland, the College must have a strong voice to be able to influence on behalf of both members and patients.
We must ensure psychiatrists and mental health services can meet the increased asks of them and that tackling stigma, discrimination and promoting inclusion is high on the agenda. This will be most powerful if our members are aware of the relevance of the College to them in their day to day work and are engaged in shaping the work of the College.
The priority areas on which I wish to focus over the next four years are:
Widening membership engagement
The recent UK College member survey data is being worked through but we do know that Scotland had the highest percentage of returns and we hope this high level of engagement will result in useful learning about how we can best support Scottish members.
However, I am keen to meet with members and hear about successes, challenges and views across Scotland. We are organising meetings across Scotland (virtual I’m afraid) ahead of the annual strategy day in November to listen to your different perspectives and let you know about the work the College is progressing on your behalf. I am aware I am asking much given the current demands on your time, but I am grateful to those of you who can join these sessions with the officers and myself. An invite will be circulated shortly.
Recruitment and retention
We must ensure the unique place of psychiatrists in the development of mental health services and in the treatment of mental illness is recognised. We need to focus both on the here and now, ensuring that the rise in demand for mental health services is matched with adequate resourcing and systems which make people want to continue to work, as well as the future, ensuring that psychiatry is seen as a go-to career option for medical students offering a rewarding and diverse career choice.
Workforce well-being is crucial but with a focus not only on our own wellbeing but also influencing how systems can be improved and made more resilient to support our patients and members. Well-being initiatives are to be welcomed but will only be partly successful unless staffing, resourcing and workforce planning are also addressed at board and national level.
The College continues to link with the government on areas such as ‘what good looks like’ standards for mental health services and with the wider political body on aspects of their manifestos. We are also working with the Academy of Royal Colleges to push for job plans to be “kitemarked” by the College as compliant with our position of the need for wellbeing resources and 7.5:2.5 DCC:SPA splits.
Health inequalities, stigma, discrimination and inclusion
During a pandemic and in its aftermath the vulnerable become more so, and health inequalities are heightened. The College must be involved in this agenda, ensuring those with mental health problems are not forgotten.
Tackling stigma and discrimination and promoting inclusion must be central to the work of the College, not only in the arena of mental illness but across the wider equality and diversity agenda. In terms of health inequalities, we must ensure that
we “build back fairer” to promote equality across services.
We are in a tough place just now, people are tired but are still maintaining quality services, even if those services are prioritised in a way we find difficult to accept. We will move from surviving to thriving again.
Thank you for all you have done and continue to do.