A scholar speaks: Dr Jen Perry
What is the RCPsych Parliamentary Scholars Scheme?
Since 2012, Baroness Hollins, ex-President of the Royal College
of Psychiatrists and a Professor of Learning Disabilities
Psychiatry, has taken on a Learning Disabilities trainee for a
special interest session to work with her as a parliamentary
researcher in the House of Lords.
This is the first year the scheme has been opened to trainees in
all psychiatric sub-specialities.
Dr Jen Perry is one of the five speciality trainees who spend
one day a week treading the floors of Westminster. Each of them is
attached to a different peer from across the political spectrum;
Conservative, Labour and Cross-Bench.
Jen is an ST6 in general adult psychiatry working at South
London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.
She is attached to Lord Brooke of Alvethorpe for a year. Lord
Brooke is a labour peer who was appointed by Tony Blair. His main
area of interest is substance misuse, with a focus on public health
and its links with mental illness. His work campaigning on alcohol
was recognised at the UK Alcohol Health Alliance’s 10 year
celebration last month where he won the ‘Peer of the Decade’
Here are the highlights of what she’s done and learnt so
One of my roles is to provide briefings for Lord Brooke on
topics for written/oral questions which are posed to the Minister
for Health in the Lords (Lord O’Shaughnessy). Here are some
We tabled some questions on the Mental Health Act (MHA) Review.
what steps were being taken to ensure that patients get help early
before reaching the point of detention and also what assessment
had been made of the
decrease in inpatient psychiatric beds and any relationship this
might have to the increase in the use of the MHA.
Lord O’Shaughnessy said that the Government recognised ‘that
improved community mental health services’ were needed and
outlined additional funding for crisis teams and A&E
departments. He said there would be ‘consideration of why rates
of detention are increasing, and what can be done to reduce
inappropriate detentions’ but he did not comment on any
potential relationship between beds and detention rates..... We
will be doing a piece of work on the MHA review as a group of
an oral question on the impact of Brexit on mental health
research. The Government has pledged to
underwrite bids as part of Horizon 2020. Questions also
highlighted the disparity between UK mental health and physical
health research funding and the impact of Brexit on the research
CAMHS has been a topical issue in parliament and we asked about
variation in CAMHS services across the country as highlighted
in the recent
I’ve also had the opportunity to support Lord Brooke in drafting
a speech for a debate on
access to mental health services for BME groups. The speech
highlighted some of the inequalities evidenced in the
government’s race audit.
It focused on the need for a public health approach and asked
the Government how it would ensure the implementation of the
recommendation from the
JCPMH guide which states that ‘targeted investment in
public mental health interventions for BME communities’ is
required. We also asked about progress on the Race Equality
Standard which was recommended in the
My days in the HOL are generally quite varied. Lord Brooke’s
main interest is alcohol misuse and so I have been to the several
events on this issue including; the launch of the
Lancet commission report, on the financial costs of alcohol,
Drink Wise Age Well report which highlights age discrimination
in alcohol services/policy.
Most days I will go to a Select Committee/APPG meeting which are
good opportunities to learn about policy. For example, in October I
attended the Health Select Committee which took evidence from the
authors of an excellent report on
The Long-term Sustainability of the NHS and Adult Social
At the EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee in November, Martin Mckee
gave evidence on the complexities of organising reciprocal
healthcare agreements following Brexit. I also attended a meeting
of the APPG on Mindfulness which received coverage in the press as
a result of
the MP who spends an hour in the bath each day!
All in all I absolutely love working in the House Of Lords! I’ve
learnt a lot about how parliament works and how to influence
I will sum up this blog with my initial observations….
Sometimes the questions don’t get answered in a very direct way
at all, but the process of asking the question is a way of putting
pressure on the Government- they let them know you’re on their
Although the Lords can appear a bit intimidating, most of the
people who work there are actually really friendly.
Brexit features everywhere!
More from the Parliamentary scholars
Each Parliamentary scholar is writing a blog for the
If you enjoyed hearing about Jen’s experiences, you can catch up
with the others in forthcoming eNewsletters.