College 'highly commended' for our member support during pandemic

Online news
01 October 2021
College 'highly commended' for our member support during pandemic

The College’s efforts to support psychiatrists during the pandemic was recognised last night as RCPsych won ‘highly commended’ in the Memcom awards for Best Member Support during COVID by a large organisation.

The commendation came after the College rolled out the biggest webinar programme of any medical royal college, transformed the way we deliver exams so they could be done remotely during 2020, and worked with NHS England to provide comprehensive guidance for members on our website within days of the pandemic starting.

RCPsych President Dr Adrian James said: "This is a real honour and it’s very much deserved, because our amazing staff team and dedicated volunteers have done a superb job of supporting our hardworking members during an extremely challenging time.”

Paul Rees, who collected the award with HR Director Marcia Cummings and our former Dean, Dr Kate Lovett, said: “When the pandemic struck, the mental health of people across the UK and globally was put under huge strain.

“At the College we needed to move extremely fast to migrate all our services online and continue to deliver an excellent member experience, to frontline doctors, working for the NHS and other mental health services.

“It’s a huge credit to our fantastic staff team and volunteers that we were able to do this, transforming areas of our work at an unprecedented pace, to provide members with the information, training and career progression opportunities they need and expect.”

Our submission to Memcom set out the work the College did to support members during the pandemic.

Member webinars

We supported our 19,000 members by rolling out the biggest webinar programme of any medical royal college, with 76,551 live and on-demand member views for our 247 free and paid-for online events.

This meant that psychiatrists and other mental health professionals could continue to learn about the latest developments in mental health care provision, and how to handle the impact of the pandemic on services, through via online platforms.

Membership exams

As it was vital that trainee doctors could still pass their exams and move into national recruitment, as fully qualified doctors, we digitised our exams, via one of the biggest projects ever run by the College – which saw us deliver the biggest virtual Objective Structured Clinical Exam (OSCE), or clinical exam, delivered by any medical royal college.

Six hundred and ninety-four candidates sat our OSCE in September and October.

A further 2,516 candidates sat our digital Paper A and Paper B in October, November and December.

Overall, a combined 3,218 candidates sat our digital OSCE and Paper A and Paper B – one of the highest number of candidates examined by any medial royal college digitally in 2020.

Guidance for members on how to handle COVID-19 in NHS services

Working in partnership with the NHS, we published comprehensive guidance on our website for clinicians on how to deliver mental health services in the midst of the pandemic.

We published this guidance within days of the first lockdown, and during the course of 2020, the information was viewed almost 500,000 times – with 21% of those views coming from overseas.

We also published podcasts and videos on how to handle the impact of COVID-19.

Boosting recruitment into psychiatry

Our Choose Psychiatry campaign, which promotes recruitment into psychiatry through professionally produced videos on social media, helped further boost the popularity of our specialty among foundation doctors.

For the first time on record, thanks to the impact of Choose Psychiatry, 100% of core training places in psychiatry were filled across the UK.

Telling the nation about the impact of COVID-19

We secured the highest level of media coverage ever, with 13,207 media mentions (up by 34% on 2019) and an aggregate audience of 1.25bn (more than seven times higher than in 2019) – with regular appearances on TV and radio news and across the national press.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was questioned about the story on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, with the interviewer saying: “The President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr Adrian James, says we're facing the biggest mental health crisis since the Second World War. What are you doing to protect the mental health of the nation which is inevitably going to struggle?”

We were quoted 40 times in Parliament, including being quoted twice at Prime Minister’s Questions.

Supporting our staff to support our members

Having switched to being a virtual College overnight on 18 March, with our 210 members of staff working from home, we rolled out daily half hour digital staff events, including a weekly CEO staff briefing – and provided our staff with comprehensive wellbeing advice, and full end-to-end mental health support, from mental health professionals, 24 hours a day.

Everything underpinned by a values-based approach

One of the reasons we thrived, despite the many challenges, was that a positive, empowering and enabling culture had already been established across our members and staff alike, through the introduction and embedding of our values of Courage, Innovation, Respect, Collaboration, Learning and Excellence.

Shortlisted for other awards

The College was also shortlisted for several other Memcom awards. They included:

  • Membership organisation of the year
  • Best website of a membership organisation
  • Best podcast
  • Best magazine for a professional association or membership organisation
  • Best sustainability initiative.

Our President Dr Adrian James said: “The fact RCPsych were shortlisted for these other awards shows the exceptional quality of work the College team is doing across so many areas of our work.”

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