Letter from the Chair of RCPsych in Scotland - December 2021

Scotland news
15 December 2021

What a quick six months! Working at the College is an enjoyable experience, more so than I expected and a welcome change of lens from my day job, really something to feed the soul. The College staff and members have been hugely welcoming, supportive and generous with their time as I’ve found my feet and for this I am grateful.

One of the highlights to date has been the opportunity to meet with members across Scotland and talk with them about their concerns, successes and hopes for the College in Scotland. I am truly thankful for your time. We are working our way through the information and have already had the chance to reflect on your views and ideas to influence.

New concerns about the Omicron variant and as we rally to prepare for the worst and hope for the best underlines another year of ups and downs – the vaccine roll-out, better treatment for those with the most severe illness leading to reduced hospitalization and death from COVID-19, whilst at the same time, the impact on the population of the response to the pandemic is becoming ever apparent. Demand for mental health services is increasing at a time when there are ongoing concerns about workforce availability. 

As individual practitioners, we continue to practice in new ways, continue to do our best for the person in front of us, continue to try and meet the demand. Our values at times have been tested and yet we continue to put our patients first and advocate for our colleagues and services.

Successes

As a College we are stronger if we have the engagement and input of our membership and this year that engagement has enabled greater impact. I want to highlight some of the successes we have had as a College, through the hard work of members and staff.

  • We engaged with 409 people through the Choose Psychiatry in Scotland stand at the international congress in June.
  • We have achieved a 4th consecutive 100% fill rate to core psychiatry posts.
  • Continuing our Choose Psychiatry Scotland Campaign, we are planning to host an interview skills course in early Feb for CT/SAS doctors, then our first StartWell event in late March for higher trainees and new Consultants, using the additional interim funding received from NES. A new proposal will be drafted for the next financial year which will request funding for a CPS stand at International Congress 2022 which will be taking place in Edinburgh allowing a further opportunity to showcase the College, psychiatry training and careers in Scotland.
  • We have begun discussions regarding the lack of availability of dual training posts in Scotland and the impact that has on our trainees.
  • Our 11 members roadshows informed areas of focus, we are working through this information to feed into the College strategy. 
  • This year we have successfully held 12 events with 397 attendees, alongside supporting 11 faculties. We know that members are missing the networking at events and we hope to hold two in-person events in 2022, restrictions permitting. In addition, we are finalising a fixed programme of Faculty events with an additional programme of webinars throughout the year, commencing on the 4th February with a webinar on Working With Transgender Patients.  We are also exploring the possibility of offering podcasts on a range of topics.
  • We have free places for Foundation Doctors and Medical Students at our events. Please contact Angela Currie for more information regarding complimentary places at the upcoming Winter Meeting on 28 January 2022.
  • We continue to influence policy and amplify the expertise and experience of our members. This includes regular engagement with the Scottish Government, including around current capacity issues, securing support and funding for a Personality Disorder National Improvement Network and building on the success of our No Wrong Door campaign. This included ahead of this year’s Budget, where we secured commitments from the Scottish Government to retain the £120M  Mental Health Recovery & Renewal Fund in full. We continue to work with the government on the development of quality standards for mental healthcare, a mental health workforce plan, and in support of the Scott Review into Mental Health Law.

And no list would be complete without mention of our award-winning communications team who build opportunities to keep mental health high on the agenda.

Working Together

As I finish off this winter blog post, I felt a certain pressure to provide you with a literary reference. To bring some cheer, I’d like to think for a moment about Shakespeare, not his tragedies but his comedies in which he often adopted slapstick, for example, he incorporated chase scenes into his comedies, such as in his play The Comedy of Errors. 

I am a huge fan of slapstick with Laurel and Hardy, rather than Shakespeare, my heroes in this arena. 

I was watching, again, their film Liberty and in particular, the wrong trousers scene played out high on a construction site. Our duo realise they have each other’s trousers on and try to remedy this high above the streets. The sketch blends the right amount of comedy and terror to entice you to keep watching. Will our heroes fall or manage to find safety again on terra firma?

But why for me is this a metaphor for the last year? It is not, you may be surprised to hear the element of farce, but the camaraderie, the duo’s desire to do the right thing, their watching out for each other, the fact that they were never both down at the same time and could pull each other up. Perhaps most of all it was that despite their desperate situation they did not lose hope, continuing to strive for a better outcome, carrying each other along.

I began this blog talking about the hope that was apparent as we met during the Roadshows. Hope will be hugely important in sustaining us through this winter and into spring. It was one of the things that made the greatest impression on me in many of our meetings. That despite the challenges we face, hope is still present, there are things we can do, working together to improve the situation for our patients and ourselves. 

As the holiday period approaches please be kind to yourself and each other. I look forward to continuing to work with you over the coming year and wish you all a peaceful and restful festive period. 

Dr Linda Findlay

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