Royal College of Psychiatrists appoints Sonia Walter as new CEO

Press release
07 March 2024

The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) is delighted to announce the appointment of Sonia Walter as its new Chief Executive Officer, starting immediately. Sonia has been interim CEO since December 2023, following the departure of Paul Rees MBE, who moved to the National Pharmacy Association.

Sonia brings 23 years’ experience of providing members of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) with the resources and support they need to deliver exceptional patient care.

Sonia first joined RCPsych in 2000 as Assistant Conference Manager, before being promoted to Head of the Centre for Advanced Learning and Conferences (CALC). In this role she transformed the College’s flagship event from an Annual Conference for 700 delegates into an International Congress attracting over 3,400 delegates from more than 50 different countries.

Sonia was promoted again in 2019 to the role of Director of Professional Standards where she led RCPsych’s work across events, eLearning, training and workforce, examinations and International, Devolved Nations and Divisions. Under Sonia’s leadership the team secured 100% fill rates in training places in core psychiatry and developed innovative training programmes like the National Autism Training Programme, and the Public Mental Health Leadership Certificate.

Her exceptional leadership through the pandemic reduced disruption for members and ensured the successful digitisation of the MRCPsych examinations and events.

Reporting directly to Dr Lade Smith CBE, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Sonia will lead on the implementation of the RCPsych strategy to improve the working lives of psychiatrists and secure the best outcomes for people with mental illness and their families.

Sonia Walter, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:

“I have dedicated my professional life to the goals of the College, so it is a tremendous privilege to have been appointed as Chief Executive. I know the pressures our members face, and I will work tirelessly to develop innovative ways of supporting their professional needs.

“It is also an honour to lead the College in its advocacy for the millions of people who need mental healthcare. We must turn the tide on the mental health crisis.”

Dr Lade Smith CBE, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:

“We are thrilled to appoint Sonia as our new Chief Executive. Sonia excelled throughout an extremely rigorous selection process, and clearly demonstrated she is the best candidate for our members, our patients, and our College staff.

“I look forward to the College going from strength to strength under Sonia’s leadership, as we strive to secure equitable access to mental healthcare and support and nurture the psychiatric workforce.”

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