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

Infections, debates and meetings

Tuesday, 19 June

I had a chest infection last week, which is why I’ve been so silent on my blog. So this post will be a bit longer than usual!

 

Everyone is aware of the industrial action scheduled for this Thursday. This is a matter that the College does not usually comment on, but I have had many queries from members about attending mental health tribunals. I know individual employers have been giving advice, but I did ask BMA Chair Dr Hamish Meldrum who gave me this response to the question: 

 

Q: I am due to be attending a mental health tribunal or other judicial or semi-judicial hearing on the day of action, should I attend?

A:
Yes. Mental Health Review Tribunals (MHRTs) and other judicial or semi-judicial hearings are statutory courts of law; failing to attend them when summoned by court will find you in contempt of court, risking a short custodial sentence. This legal obligation overrides the legal provisions for Industrial Action. As such, there will be no protection for a doctor who declines such commitment as part of Industrial Action.

It’s been a great week for improving society’s understanding of the importance of mental health and how mental illness is treatable. Last Thursday saw a landmark debate on mental health in the House of Commons. Huge thanks to all those MPs who talked so openly about their own mental illness – this one act has already made a difference.

And yesterday, a new report from the LSE about the importance of resource allocation to mental health services received a huge amount of media coverage. But I am very aware that all this is playing out against a background of challenging times for many members out in the field. We have to work together and support each other, for psychiatrists are the vital link in the pathway of care for patients with mental illness, and also in advising and leading prevention interventions.  

Last Monday, the 11 June, I attended a 175th Anniversary lunch for the Royal Medical Benevolent Fund, the leading UK charity for doctors, medical students and their families. Dr Amit Malik, a past chair of our Psychiatric Trainees Committee, is one of their Trustees. Held in the House of Lords, it was a real celebration of an association that has never been more important than in these times of ‘austerity’.

 

I met an amazing group of fundraisers. A survivor of leukaemia, waiting for the return of her son from tour of duty from Afghanistan, who raises money for research into leukaemia and for the RMBF. She demonstrated has innate resilience by trekking to and crossing China. Watch out for her on Saturday 8 July, as she will be carrying the Olympic torch in Bedford.

The day after, the chief executive and I met with parents whose son had died of a physical illness while in psychiatric care. The room was filled by their still raw pain, but also by their tenacity and determination to make a difference. As you know, we have made improving the physical health of our patients a major strand of the College’s work. Dr Helen Miller and our Centre for Advanced Learning and Conferences will be developing training in this very important area, and I hope all our members will prioritise this in their personal development plans.

 

Last Thursday, I attended a meeting of the Advisory Group for National Specialised Services (AGNSS).  It was a very heavy agenda, discussing serious business about the future of nationally commissioned services and considering the use of new drugs for rare conditions. This is one of the most difficult but intellectually stimulating meetings I go to – absorbing complex scientific data, looking at ethical frameworks and, in the brave new world, making hard decisions in a cost benefit context.

 

Council met on Friday, and we had two really splendid presentations from the College Centre for Quality Improvement and the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health. We heard of activities and outcomes which, through effort and innovation led by Dr Mike Crawford and Professor Tim Kendall, the College should be rightly proud of. I have determined that we should make the outside world very much more aware of the work these parts of the College family carry out. But they can't do this without the help of each and every member who sits on guideline groups and/or belongs to CCQI  networks. 

 

We also said goodbye and thank you to several Council members at the meeting, and I am personally very grateful for the huge amount of work they all do. Included among them was Raymond Brookes-Collins, who has been a wonderful Chair of the Carers Forum. I look forward to presenting him with a President’s Medal in recognition of his achievements at next month’s International Congress.

 

Speaking of the Congress, it appears that we will have an excellent attendance this year in Liverpool. If you haven’t booked to attend so far, there is still time to sign up.

On Saturday, I attended a meeting of BIPA, the British Indian Psychiatric Association. As always, it was a robust scientific conference, but with a family atmosphere and warm hospitality. I learnt of an inspiring project in India working with the most severely mentally ill on minimal resources and with good outcomes. Sadly I couldn’t stay over on Saturday night, but I understand there are some good photos of the President Elect of the World Psychiatric Association and the Dean dancing!

And finally, an update on my roof. Last week, I was told the job was done and a bill was sent out to me. I was minding my own business on Saturday evening when I heard a ‘plip plop’. I’ve decided that the roof has been sent to test out my resilience. 

 

Sue 

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