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

Dementia and more

Friday, 9 November 2012

On Thursday 8 November I was privileged to attend 10 Downing Street to mark the launch of Dementia Friends, which is encouraging people to use their know-how to help people with dementia feel understood and included in their community.

It was good to hear the Prime Minister’s pledges, but I was particularly struck by listening to people who are or have been carers for people with dementia.  I learnt about how attitudes toward those with dementia play out across different cultures.

Sometimes the crucial role of psychiatry in supporting people with dementia isn’t fully appreciated, and our Faculty of the Psychiatry of Old Age has an important role to play in promoting education, expert advice and professional development in this crucial area.

I had a very useful catch up with our new workforce lead, Aideen O’Halloran. Recruitment into psychiatry is a priority for the College and we are now into the second year of our recruitment strategy.

I also paid a visit to Rugby School, where I encouraged students with the aim and ambition to pursue a career in medicine do psychiatry. I was impressed by what a bright and enthusiastic group of students they were, with the key attributes of empathy and compassion. 

I was delighted to see that Professor Simon Wessely, a Fellow of the College, was the joint inaugural winner of the Ford Maddox prize, which rewards individuals who have promoted sound science and evidence on a matter of public interest, with an emphasis on those who have faced difficulty or opposition in doing so.

Simon has done incredible work in the mental health of military personnel and veterans, and chronic fatigue syndrome. He has demonstrated substantial overlap in symptoms between chronic fatigue syndrome and clinical depression and has developed a treatment approach using cognitive-behavioural therapy techniques, which has been tested in large clinical trials and can now be found in the NICE guidelines. And he has done all of this despite a sustained campaign against his work from some quarters, so many congratulations.

A busy week lies ahead with the publication of the NHS mandate to the NHS commissioning board, which will set out the care objectives for the improvement of healthcare. Along with colleagues from the voluntary sector and other Royal medical colleges, we have had a great deal of input into this.

Next week will also see publication of the Schizophrenia Commission, which I await with interest.

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