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

At the APA

Tuesday, 8 May

Since Saturday, I’ve been at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting in Philadelphia. The first symposium I was involved in was about cross-cultural issues in the use of psychotropic medications in children. There was a great deal of discussion, and colleagues from the US, Canada and New Zealand gave their perspectives on the cultural and policy influences on prescribing.

Next, I was guest at the Assembly of the APA where business is conducted. Of particular interest was a presentation from Paul Summergrad MD on the role of psychiatry in health reform, integrated care and how psychiatrists can work with primary care colleagues. It is interesting how we share many of the same issues with the US – the need to protect funding for the most vulnerable populations, and not allowing monies for our patients to be swept off into other fields of medicine.

John Oldham MD, outgoing President of the APA, gave a very touching talk about the work he had done over the last 12 months to ensure psychiatry is part of the "house of medicine”. He talked about the patient’s right to quality treatment, the importance of integrated care, and how we have to maintain a high quality of education and research.

The new APA President is Dilip Jeste, a psychogeriatrician. His theme for his presidency will be pursuing well-being across the lifespan. Both Dilip and John stressed the importance of the Mental Health Parity Act which was passed in 2008 in the USA, and how subsequently they have been able to use this as a powerful lever to halt policy or practice that would have a negative impact on mental health users and carers, and to deliver better services. It’s encouraging to hear that, given what has been achieved over here with parity of esteem through the Health and Social Care Act, and I hope that this will ensure we achieve the best for our patients – whatever the challenges and challenges in health care commissioning.  

I also attended a really positive meeting of European leaders and APA leaders. The emphasis was on integrating better with primary care and public health, and brain migration across the world.

In between lectures and meetings, I’ve had the opportunity to observe Philadelphia society. It is a city full of history (see my photo of Benjamin Franklin!) but like every city it has its problems – Benjamin Franklin - APA meeting 2012including homelessness. The hotel I am staying in is next to the equivalent of one of our magistrates’ courts so, as a forensic psychiatrist, I feel quite at home! Through the window I’ve been watching life outside the court unfold – people hovering  outside and waiting, some entering and not returning, and relatives pacing up and down outside.

I’ve also had time to watch a bit of television. At least half of the adverts seem to be about prescription medication, inviting you to go to your doctor and ask for a named drug, and all accompanied by a roll call of a long list of side effects. It’s interesting to watch, as I suspect few of us read all of the small print on leaflets accompanying medication in the UK. Then the rest of the adverts seem to be from lawyers, telling you how to sue the doctors that have prescribed the medication that’s given you one of these side effects!

It’s interesting how much the APA Congress has changed over the years. In times past, the exhibition hall resembled the set of a 1930s film extravaganza – lights, curtains and glamour to advertise pharmaceutical companies and medications. Now it is a more subdued affair, with many of the stands occupied by competing health providers eager to show why working for them would be better than working for their neighbour. There are also some amazing NGO stands, which aren’t very flashy but show how they are providing life-changing support for those with serious mental illness and acquired brain damage.

Sue

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Comments

Dear Sue- enjoying reading your blog. You paint a vivid picture of your hard work on our behalf, and it's really good to be kept informed.

Thank you very much for your attendance at our recent joint psychotherapy faculty event with RCGP and it's good to hear that this has led onto to further discussion about the involvement of the College in developing the newly extended GP training now.

Yours,

William.

William Burbridge-James

Consultant Medical Psychotherapist

 

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