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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

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24/06/2018 11:44:53

A day in the life of an Intellectual Disabilities psychiatrist

Dr James SmithI never really thought about psychiatry, or intellectual disability psychiatry until my foundation programme. I then had some really good placements where I saw senior doctors spending time with their patients, communicating considerately with their colleagues and keeping exceptionally high quality standards. I currently have an excellent supervisor (Dr Ian Hall) who has repeatedly demonstrated how to manage many competing demands whilst still providing excellent quality of care.

I rarely have a typical day! I work with a diverse range of people in loads of unique settings which makes every day different. Lots of our patients are young, fun and dynamic which means I have to be quite adaptable to where and when I’m available. I’ve had days where I spend the morning in a medium secure forensic unit and the afternoon in a coffee shop on Brick Lane.

I love working in Tower Hamlets because there is such a great sense of community. I have been lucky to get to know so many families who are extremely grateful to our team, but also have clear ideas on how we can improve. We have service users and carers involved with our QI projects and it is so refreshing to work with people collaboratively.

I meet with a wide range of patients with varying degrees of disability. I see lots of common mental illness that has presented strangely because of communication difficulties – there is a lot of diagnostic overshadowing where other professionals may have thought that an odd behaviour was due to learning disability, but actually it is depression or psychosis. When you work this out it is extremely rewarding as it can be treated easily and makes a huge impact on people’s lives. I usually set goals with patients about what we want to achieve with treatment and we always think about the bigger picture – how is treatment going to affect their day to day life. Sometimes family or support workers really want medication to keep people calm or quiet – this is always tricky to deal with. I have always enjoyed advocating for patients and this job really allows me to put patients in the centre and pursue their best interests.

People often say to me ‘how are you going to make a difference – learning disability is for life’ – this is so wrong! The team works incredibly hard to enable people with disability to function at their best. I have been amazed at the transformation and achievements shown by patients… far more than I could do in their situation. The key objective is to help someone work out what they want from an intervention, make it accessible and then see people regularly to make sure it is working.

The days are full, but I get a lot done and go home feeling content. It's very refreshing – I've worked well beyond my hours in previous jobs in the past. My current job is well organised, has access to resources and I get time to actually see my patients (my appointments are 1 hour!).

People with learning disability are fun, diverse and have so much potential that is still not realised by society. There have been some horrid times in the past for people with learning disability, the future looks much brighter, and there are resources available to make the change. Despite all the difficulties the NHS faces at the moment, I really feel I am working in an area where great progress is being made and I feel very positive about my job.

Dr James Smith

East London NHS Foundation Trust

06/06/2018 12:10:30

A message from Wendy Burn

                                 Professor Wendy Burn


Some of you may be aware that I have been travelling long distances in the last few weeks to attend the annual conferences of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP). I was touched by the kindness and hospitality that was shown to me; these were large meetings and a great opportunity to catch up not just on recent developments in our field, but also with old friends and colleagues.

On my 11,000 mile journey back to the UK, there was a chance to reflect on what it is that makes our own International Congress particularly unique and close to my heart.

The International Congress of the Royal College of Psychiatrists has grown over the last few years into one of the highlights of the annual mental health conference calendar.

While never being the world’s largest, it is certainly one of its most influential. The Congress which brings together over 2,500 psychiatrists and mental health professionals gives you an opportunity to listen not just to the latest developments in clinical psychiatry, but also to the cutting-edge science that underpins it, the socio-cultural influences that shape it and the patient experience which is at the centre of everything in it.

It is the type of conference where a Nobel laureate speaking on the molecular mechanisms of memory can be followed on to the stage by a patient who gives a searing account of the reality of mental illness, a writer whose narratives of mental ill health have captured public imagination and a policy-maker who makes spending announcements during the keynote address. Yes - all this has happened on the Congress stage and it is this eclectic combination that makes the International Congress an academic experience like no other.

The International Congress in Birmingham that will start in about three weeks’-time promises to continue in this tradition with an academic programme which is as good, if not better than before.


Just focusing on the prestigious keynote addresses:


  • Day 1 features Baroness Hale, the President of the Supreme Court followed by Professor Elias Eriksson from Gothenburg and Sathnam Sanghera, the best-selling author of the Boy with the Topknot
  • Day 2, we have two of the most influential neuroscientists in the world; Professors Karl Friston and Ray Dolan along with one of the biggest names in British Psychiatry, Professor Sir Robin Murray
  • Day 3, the eloquent and inspiring Altha Stewart, President of the APA features along with Professors Simon Lovestone of Oxford, Mary Phillips of Pittsburgh and Emily Holmes of the Karolinska Institute, Sweden
  • The final day will see Professor Hamish McAllister-Williams alongside the award winning mental health activist Jonny Benjamin MBE and Joanna Cannon, the author of The Trouble with Sheep and Goats and Three Things about Elsie, one of our own who has gone on to become even more successful in the world of letters.


Along with these keynotes, there will be around 80 parallel sessions, presented by some of the best-known clinicians and researchers in our field and about 800 research posters that showcase new talent and emerging studies. All in all, it promises to be a great treat and I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible in Birmingham.

Allow me to get back now to the rather daunting task of drafting my inaugural address as President which will be delivered at the Birmingham Congress…

Professor Wendy Burn, President


The Congress Team



20/04/2018 10:56:35

60 seconds with... Robin Murray

RCPsych Keynote Speaker

Professor of Psychiatric Research


If you could live in any era, what would it be?

2150 because if it were possible, it would imply that we haven’t destroyed out planet by nukes or plastic.


What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Persuading most (but not yet all) psychiatrists that heavy use of cannabis is an important cause of psychosis.


Who are most looking forward to hearing at Congress?

The session on the UK Biobank.


Which person, living or dead, do you must admire?

John Maclean, a Glasgow schoolteacher and socialist, who jailed for 5 years for leading a campaign against the stupendous folly of the First World War


Three items. Desert island. What would you bring?

A mandolin (with teach yourself book), my dog, and a picture of my wife.


Why do you think psychiatry is such a great career?

It’s a privilege to try to firstly understand peoples’ thoughts and emotions, and secondly to relate them to the way the brain functions.



The Congress Team

20/04/2018 12:07:56

60 seconds with... Mary Phillips

RCPsych Keynote Speaker

 Professor in Psychiatry and Clinical and Translational Science


If you could live in any era, what would it be?

Era: Now – now is by far the best time for clinical neuroscience and equal opportunities for all in so many areas of life


What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement: linking abnormal brain systems to specific symptoms, and providing new neural targets for novel treatment developments, in bipolar disorder. I am also very happy to have mentored several junior colleagues, and am so proud of their success.


Who are most looking forward to hearing at Congress?

Looking forward to seeing all the key note speakers if I can as they cover such a broad range of topics, representing the truly integrative nature of psychiatry today


Which person, living or dead, do you must admire?

I admire several leaders from the field of science, but particularly Marie Curie, the first woman to win a Nobel prize for Physics, and the first person ever to win two Nobel prizes!


Three items. Desert island. What would you bring?

Desert island: Generator for endless supply of power , laptop and my husband— assuming food, water and shelter provided!


Why do you think psychiatry is such a great career?

Psychiatry is such a great career choice, and especially now, as it is the most integrative of all disciplines in medicine, and focuses on those diseases that are the most human— the diseases of the brain and complex behaviours.



The Congress Team

20/04/2018 12:15:20

60 seconds with... Hamish McAllister-Williams

RCPsych Keynote Speaker

Professor of Affective Disorders


If you could live in any era, what would it be?

I wouldn’t want to be in any era other than the current one. We are at a moment of great excitement in the development of our understanding of mental illness and the discovery of novel treatments. For depression in particular there are several novel drug treatments in development with mechanisms of action completely different to our existing treatments, as well as the expansion and development of neurostimulatory treatments. This is all in addition to recent expansions in psychosocial management options and an increased understanding of optimal service provision. The biggest challenge we face is putting this all into practice.


What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

I could be flippant and say running a sub-three hour marathon, or obtaining grants for several large treatment studies in depression. However, I would say that my biggest achievement is every time I help a patient with chronic severe treatment resistant depression gain some improvement in their quality of life.


Who are most looking forward to hearing at Congress?

Elias Erikson. There are many myths about antidepressants floating around, perpetuated by the main stream media, internet and social media. Prof Erikson has done a wonderful job of challenging these myths using the evidence from large data sets. I think his message is clear and essential for all clinicians. Every time I have heard him speak I have learnt something new.


Which person, living or dead, do you must admire?

Emil Kraeplin. One of the biggest research challenges is the ability to stratify patients to be prognosticate and target treatment to individuals. There are many current leads as to how this might be done, but few have reached the clinic. The best stratification we currently have is making a clear diagnosis. While there are some issues with Kraeplin’s diagnostic categories, they have largely stood the test of time. They are based upon his astute clinical observations. Such perceptiveness would serve all clinicians well. He is somebody to be admired.


Three items. Desert island. What would you bring?

Fishing rod, running shoes and a good book. I have always wanted to go fly fishing for saltwater bonefish. It requires great skill and pound for pound they are one of the strongest fish around. I am hoping there will be bonefish swimming around this tropical desert island! Running shoes to keep fit and because I take them everywhere. As for a book I am open to suggestions. Lord of the Rings, War and Peace or some other good long read to help while away the hours.


Why do you think psychiatry is such a great career?

I am afraid my answer is not be very novel, but I think Psychiatry is a great because of the opportunity it gives you to get to know people in great depth and then working with them in an holistic way within a multidisciplinary team. I enjoyed most areas of medicine during training. However, in other disciplines things can become very predictable. Once you have managed 20 patients with anterior MIs, are you going to see a lot more variations dealing with the next 2,000? In Psychiatry, every patient is totally different even though there are common threads running through their presentations.



The Congress Team

11/04/2018 15:21:10

60 seconds with... Simon Lovestone

Simon Lovestone

RCPsych Keynote Speaker

Professor of Translational Neuroscience at Oxford University


If you could live in any era what would it be?

Now. Despite reports to the contrary, now is the best it has ever been. Despite the impressions left from reading the daily papers, we have less war and better health than in the history of mankind. Plus science is delivering new insights into our past and future selves at a rate unimaginable even when I started as a trainee psychiatrist.


What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

There was the time I caught more fish when out boating on a lake in Kent with Dr Jacoby. It stands out in my memory, and was a pretty good achievement but I guess a more lasting achievement is having had the privilege to have a large number of students, trainees and fellows and especially post-doctoral scientists pass through my lab and go on to have terrific careers.


Who are you most looking forward to hearing at Congress?

Experience tells me that its hard to predict. Lots of great subjects and accomplished speakers on the programme. All justify the expectation. But sometimes it’s the conversations with researchers at their posters that is most memorable. If that researcher is smart, enthusiastic, with an intriguing idea and some fascinating data, and especially if they are an early career researcher, then that turns out to be the person I most remember hearing at congress.


Which person, living or dead, do you most admire?

I’ve been thinking about Sir John Sulston following his untimely death recently. A wonderful man who was an outstanding scientist, awarded a Nobel for his work on development in C elegans. However, as this excellent obituary noted what he became known for was in leading the human genome project – and insisting that this was done in a way that made all the data available for all the scientific community. This was really the start of the open-science movement and cannot have been easy to achieve. He deserves all our admirations both for the science and the way it was conducted. I was thrilled to meet him last year and spent 30 minutes in a waiting room chatting about politics, Brexit and the importance of open-science. We agreed on everything! I’m only sorry it wasn’t longer and I didn’t get the opportunity to visit him when next in Cambridge.


Three items. Desert Island. What would you bring?

A powerful motor boat fully equipped with GPS and petrol, a satellite phone and a wide brimmed hat.


Why do you think psychiatry is such a great career?

Because listening to people’s lives, hearing their thoughts and stories, trying to understand and to help is the most extraordinary journey and the best use of all of those attributes and motivations that made you want to be a doctor in the first place.



The Congress Team

11/04/2018 15:21:30

60 seconds with... Baroness Hale

RCPsych Keynote Speaker

President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom


If you could live in any era what would it be?

It would be now. If I had been born in any earlier era I might well have died (in childbirth). Throughout most of my life, things have been getting better for women. But I have a fear that things may be beginning to get worse. So now.


What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Becoming President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. I still can't quite believe it. But I'm also proud of the reforms which came out of my time at the Law Commission, including the Mental Capacity Act 2005, and some of my judgments, including the Cheshire West judgment.


Which person, living or dead, do you most admire?

That's a hard call, because different people are admirable for different things. This year, I'll go for Millicent Fawcett, who did so much to get us the vote.


Three items. Desert Island. What would you bring?

The complete works of Shakespeare, a piano, and a solar powered computer.



The Congress Team

11/04/2018 15:28:41

60 seconds with... Sathnam Sanghera

RCPsych Keynote Speaker

Journalist and best-selling author of The Boy with the Topknot


If you could live in any era, what would it be?

Think I actually lived through it: the 80s. We had all the benefits of modern life without the bloody internet.


What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

My relationships and being able to write for a living.


Who are most looking forward to hearing at Congress?

Two people in my family have schizophrenia: I can never know enough psychiatrists. So: everyone.


Which person, living or dead, do you must admire?

Prof Stephen Hawking.


Three items. Desert island. What would you bring?

MP3 player. Shoes (I actually stayed on a desert island once and tired of the sand). Pizza cutter.


Why do you think psychiatry is such a great career?

Because all the great discoveries are about to be made.



The Congress Team

03/04/2018 13:37:58

Exploring New Horizons at the Royal College International Congress by Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., FRCP-E

Saul Levin

I do a fair bit of traveling as part of my duties as APA’s CEO and Medical Director, and one of my very favorite destinations every year is the United Kingdom, where each summer I attend the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ (RCP) International Congress.

The RCP’s International Congress is well worth the trip for any psychiatrist interested in a stimulating exchange of medical knowledge, culture and ideas, that has the twist of British etiquette, with the rigor that all researchers, clinicians have, both there and here in the USA. The Sunday night event for International Attendees is always a highlight for me.

Incoming APA President Dr. Altha Stewart will deliver a keynote address titled "Global Public Health Implications of Adverse Childhood Experiences." Mental health issues are increasingly being recognized as a public health concern, and rightfully so. Mental illness and substance use disorders have a profound impact on our society, and particularly on child and adolescent patients, for whom early intervention is key in achieving good treatment outcomes. I’m very excited to hear Dr. Stewart examine this issue on a global scale and am sure it will be one of the highlights of the meeting.

The RCP International Congress boasts a world-class scientific program, but it is not limited to hard science. Indeed, one of the defining features of the RCP International Congress is the diverse array of speakers it attracts, featuring patients, families and opinion leaders from the social and political sphere in addition to academics.

This year is no different, with a four-day program featuring 14 keynote speeches and about 80 parallel sessions that cover a broad array of topics ranging from basic science to clinical psychiatry and socio-cultural topics relevant to mental health. A broad curriculum and a truly international faculty means that the RCP International Congress has excellent learning opportunities for psychiatrists at any stage of their career.

It is fitting then, that the theme of the 2018 International Congress is Psychiatry: New Horizons. Advancement in technology and communications have connected humanity in ways that would have seemed impossible just 20 years ago and made this a very exciting time to practice medicine. It is now more important than ever for the American Psychiatric Association and our members to be active participants in the global medical community and pursue opportunities to interact with our international colleagues whenever possible.

Mental illness and substance use disorders affect patients at all levels of society here in the United States and abroad. Seeking out and hearing the viewpoints and experiences of our colleagues in international psychiatry, and sharing our own in return, will be key as American psychiatrists work toward a better future for our patients and our profession.

Come join me in Birmingham, England, this June for one of most prestigious mental health events in the world. It’s the perfect time to share your knowledge and network with colleagues from all over the world.

You can find registration information and take a look at the academic program for the Royal College of Psychiatrist’s International Congress.

Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A., FRCP-E


01/02/2018 15:25:16

Why present a poster?

Last year over 800 people presented a poster at International Congress in Edinburgh, over the course of 4 days. Our poster viewing area is one of the major attractions of Congress and offers the chance for you to present on a wide range of topics.


So... why present a poster at International Congress 2018?

Poster presentations offer a wonderful opportunity to circulate your work and engage with your peers on an academic level. Posters give you the opportunity to present on a wide range which is particularly useful if your research falls within a narrow field of specialisation. They are a highly visual medium and are a very effective means of communicating information to a wider audience.

Posters are a fantastic way to communicate your research, an impressive addition to your CV - see your name printed in the booklet and receive a certificate! Presenting your work also offers the possibility of scientific collaboration - good posters can improve your reputation.

There are numerous bursaries available to trainees, students and foundation doctors presenting posters. You can apply for a bursary on-line when you submit your poster abstract.


The Congress Team


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Quotes from International Congress 2017 Delegates

"The International Congress in Edinburgh was an uplifting experience."

"First class Congress - very professional, showing the college in the best light. Not to be missed." 

"Overall superb, thank you, you made me proud to be a psychiatrist."

"Wonderful gathering with high quality of sessions and excellent opportunity of networking."

 "In one sentence, it is excellent."