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

Stormy weather in Brighton at Liberal Democrat conference

In what was a blustery few days both meteorologically and metaphorically, delegates had to battle the wind and rain to reach the conference venue.  Inside, the key theme at many meetings was the impact of the new benefit assessment process on those with physical illness, mental illness and learning disability. Still not sensing any "give" in the system, we all know this is big chunk of government spend but NGOs, users and carers are battling to get ministers to recognise the catastrophic impact when the assessments are carried out poorly. This debate therefore must continue.

We held a lively, well attended round table with major mental health charities, other Royal Colleges and the NHS Confederation which saw really productive input from MPs and those with interest in mental health in the House of Lords including Shirley Williams, Judith Jolly, Claire Tyler and Victor Adebowale. Victor has been CEO of the health and social care provider Turning Point for many years and was recently appointed to the National Commissioning Board. Baroness Tyler is championing children’s issues as Chair of the Children and Family Court Advisory Service (CAFCAS) and the newly appointed President of the National Children’s Bureau.

Myself and other College members attended a variety of meeting with charities and other Royal Medical College on issues as varied and commissioning, early intervention and obesity. As well as the multiple fringe meetings on offer, we also had some useful one to one meetings with Parliamentarians where we were able to raise specific issues in more detail.

Dinner with NGOs, NHS Confederation and ex-Care Services Minister, Paul Burstow MP in whom we have a continuing ally and friend for mental health, learning disability and social care. Despite losing his position on the Government front bench, I suspect he will remain vocal on mental health issues in the Commons.

It’s fascinating to hear the perspective of local councillors about clinical commissioning groups and local Health and Wellbeing Boards. What won't surprise you but makes it difficult for us all is the variability.  Some councillors saying their Health and Wellbeing Boards are health dominated, others social care, all emphasise that later life is a priority. 

More College meetings and clinical commitments for the rest of the week before Labour conference in my home town of Manchester at the weekend.

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