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


Presidential elections: the result

Professor Wendy Burn will be RCPsych’s next President


Dr Wendy Burn

Professor Wendy Burn was announced as the winner of the Presidential elections on 24 January, hours after the polls closed.



33.1% of Members, Fellows and Specialist Associates voted - a substantial increase on the last College presidential election.

Professor Burn polled more votes than fellow candidates Dr Peter Aitken, Dr J.S. Bamrah, Professor Rob Poole and Dr James Warner, and will take over from our current President, Professor Sir Simon Wessely, in June.

Minutes after hearing the good news, Wendy said: “I am honoured to have been elected President. I know what it’s like on the frontline of psychiatry and how difficult it has become. The current morale amongst trainees is the worst I have known it, but as President I will ensure that they are supported and valued by the College.

There is still so much stigma surrounding the profession. When I decided to enter the specialty, I was told by the professor that I worked for that I could do something better.

Psychiatry is an incredibly rewarding and important profession, and we must work hard to challenge the negative views that still exist.

I also understand how hard it is for all clinicians working in a culture where a sick child can be sent to a hospital miles from their home and where allocated resources only too often do not reach their intended destination.

I will work tirelessly with colleagues, politicians and other stakeholders to address these issues and to ensure that we have the resources to allow us to provide the care and treatment which our patients need and deserve.”

Chief Executive Paul Rees said: “I have very much enjoyed working with our President Professor Sir Simon Wessely, who has been an inspirational leader for the profession for the past three years.

However, I congratulate Wendy on winning what was a keenly fought election to replace him, and I very much look forward to working with her to promote the voice of psychiatry and the needs of service users.”

Sir Simon, who was elected in 2014, said: “It has been an honour to serve the College as President over the last three years. Huge congratulations to Wendy on being elected. I hope she will love it as much as I have."


More about the President-elect

Wendy Burn grew up in a medical family and always knew she wanted to be a doctor.

Her interest in psychiatry developed during her time spent as a houseman on a medical ward.

An early psychiatric placement was with the elderly and she found herself drawn towards this group.

Professor Burn said: “I loved getting to know my patients, and hearing the fascinating stories of their lives.”

Professor Burn became a consultant old age psychiatrist in Leeds in 1990 and now works fulltime in a community post. Her main clinical interest is dementia.

She has held a regional leadership role in this area from 2011 and was co-clinical Lead for dementia for Yorkshire and the Humber Strategic Clinical Network between 2013 and 2016.

She also sits on national groups for the planning of dementia care.

Wendy has been heavily involved in postgraduate training since starting as a consultant and has held many roles in education, including setting up the Yorkshire School of Psychiatry and becoming the first Head of School.

She was a senior organiser of clinical examinations at the College, deputy convenor, regional co-ordinator for continuing professional development and the deputy lead for national recruitment.

She co-chairs the Gatsby Wellcome Neuroscience Project, aimed at reworking the core training curriculum for psychiatry trainees.

From 2011 to 2016 Wendy was College Dean.





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