RCPsych Parliamentary Scholarship Blog: Dr Kathleen McCurdy
Kathleen is an ST6 trainee in forensic psychiatry at Oxleas NHS
Foundation Trust. She is working with Baroness Watkins of
Tavistock, a Cross-bench Peer and Visiting Professor of Nursing at
King’s College London, who is interested in the topics of
education, nursing, mental health, social enterprises and
What is the RCPsych Parliamentary
Since 2012, Baroness Hollins, ex-President of the Royal College
of Psychiatrists and a Professor of Learning Disabilities
Psychiatry, has taken on a Learning Disabilities trainee for a
special interest session to work with her as a parliamentary
researcher in the House of Lords.
This is the first year the scheme has been opened to trainees in
all psychiatric sub-specialities.
Dr Jen Perry and Dr Kathleen McCurdy are two of the five
speciality trainees who spend one day a week treading the floors of
Westminster. Each of them is attached to a different peer from
across the political spectrum; Conservative, Labour and
What I actually do
On a typical day I’ll arrive at Westminster in the morning and
attend a scheduled meeting, Select Committee or All-Party
Parliamentary Group (APPG).
The APPG on Mental Health is held a number of times a year and I
recently attended the Select Committee on Child and Adolescent
Mental Health, but I often use these sorts of opportunity to
broaden my horizons and listen to experts discuss the experiences
and advice around topics that I don’t know much about.
There is so much that interfaces with mental health; a recent
Science and Technology committee spoke about Life Sciences
‘Catapult’ businesses and how to integrate new research and
products into the NHS, the APPG on Health held a session on old age
and frailty and I’ve attended a conference on Social
Occasionally I have been fortunate enough to wander to “the
other place” (a euphemistic term for the House of Commons) to
observe, which was a particularly lively experience during the
recent Budget debate.
After lunch, I might accompany Baroness Watkins to meetings, do
some research in the library on upcoming questions and debates or
even draft a speech.
The House of Lords sits mid-afternoon and begins with questions,
during which Peers hold government representatives to account on
their policies and current practice. Unsurprisingly mental health
is a common topic to come up in both written and oral questions.
Following this there is usually some in-depth legislative scrutiny
and then a debate; a recent topic was on Mental Health in Black and
Minority Ethnic Groups.
Your work, debated by Peers
It’s quite an experience sitting in the galleries and listening
to something you’ve helped research or write being debated by the
The House often sits late into the evening and there are also
sometimes lobbying events by charities and other interesting groups
to attend. My schedule tends to be quite flexible and I sometimes
come in on different days if there is something important I wish to
see or do.
We do have some contact with RCPsych. Our monthly meetings are a
great opportunity to be updated on the College’s agenda, to
catch-up with the other scholars and to plan to work together to
influence policy on specific topics such as the Mental Health Act
review or the CAMHS Green Paper.
As a forensic psychiatry trainee I’m also interested in the
Justice Committee enquiry into the prison population and planning
for the future and how this relates to mental health.
An exciting time!
Although I’m relatively early in my year-long placement, I’m
beginning to get some understanding of the complexities of the
political world and the ways in which policy is developed.
I think that sometimes as a junior doctor there is a feeling of
disillusionment and that we can’t change anything, but certainly
this experience is showing me that by engaging in politics and
empowering ourselves we can bring about positive change for our
patients and ourselves as a workforce.
It’s such an exciting time to be at Westminster and I look
forward to the opportunities and challenges that 2018 brings.