Sonia Walter becomes interim CEO

Online news
03 November 2023

The College is delighted to announce that Sonia Walter, our Director of Professional Standards, will become interim Chief Executive of the Royal College of Psychiatrists starting this Monday.

Sonia will work alongside the departing CEO, Paul Rees MBE, until he leaves later this month to take up his new rule as Chief Executive at the National Pharmacy Association.

Sonia joined the College on 31 October 2000, and 23 years to the day she was told the news of her appointment to the most senior staff role in the organisation. She commented on the announcement:

“I can’t explain how happy I am to have this opportunity,”  

The new interim CEO admitted the departure of Paul Rees and also of Calum Rees, the Director of Finance and Operations, who is also leaving this month, poses a big challenge to the organisation.

“The loss to the College in terms of experience and knowledge is huge, but I am reassured that we retain a skilled, knowledgeable and experienced senior management team and heads group,” she said.

“It will also be challenging to deliver the College’s ambitious workplan for 2024 while managing a tight budget but we will do everything we can to deliver for our members.

“We understand that members are under more pressure than ever themselves and we will be working hard to engage with members to understand their needs and provide the support they require.”

Sonia’s first role was as Assistant Conference Manager in a team of four working at the College’s previous head office in Belgrave Square. She later became head of the newly formed CALC (Centre for Advanced Learning and Conferences) unit, successfully leading the team to produce a series of highly successful International Congress events, as well as a wide array of conferences and training courses for members.

In 2019 Sonia became Director of Professional Standards, leading the team through the exceptional challenges posed by the pandemic. Under her leadership, the College was able to act exceptionally quickly to stage online exams and to introduce online events, and these helped the RCPsych get ‘highly commended’ in the Memcom UK awards for Best Member Support, for two consecutive years.

Sonia will take over from Paul Rees, who since joining as CEO in 2016, has helped transform the College into an award-winning, values-based organisation which has grown to more than 21,000 members – up from 17,900 when he joined.

During his tenure, the College was named Charity of the Year in the European Diversity Awards. The College also won a string of ‘memcom’ membership sector awards including Best Marketing Campaign for its Choose Psychiatry campaign, as well as Best Recruitment and Retention Strategy; Best Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Campaign and the award for Best Work on Sustainability. In addition, in 2020 Paul won the ‘memcom’ Louis Armstrong CEO Leadership Award.

In September, this year, the College also won the Charity Times Campaigning Team of the Year Award for its work on equality, diversity and inclusion. While, in February, it was named as one of the top 100 employers in the UK on creating an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace.

Paul said:

“It has been an absolute honour and privilege to serve as the RCPsych Chief Executive – and I am so pleased that, as I come to the end of my tenure, Sonia has been appointed as interim Chief Executive.

"She has repeatedly shown over the years that she is a true values-based leader and I wish her the very best in the role.”