St John’s Hospital
NHS West Lothian
Friday 25th October 2019
To the President and Vice President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists: Professor Wendy Burn and Dr John Crichton
Dear John and Wendy,
Early retirement of Dr Peter J Gordon, NHS Psychiatrist.
On Tuesday this week I e-mailed Wendy to let her know that I have decided to retire as a doctor at the end of the year and this will mean a significant loss to my pension. This has been a difficult decision to make, particularly as I am not yet 52 years old and feel that I have much more to offer those who consult me as an NHS doctor. In terms of feedback over my career, I have received overwhelming appreciation for my Clinical skills, my knowledge, natural compassion and my interest in ethics. I am also considered by many to be a pluralistic learner (polymath) and have, like Professor Sir Kenneth Calman, regularly put forward the central importance of the medical humanities in healthcare and science.
I was dismayed that the Royal College of Psychiatrists deliberately chose not to respond to my letter of resignation of the 25th September 2018 (copied below and attached for your reminder). I felt that to completely ignore this letter was disrespectful, but more worryingly the public can have no indication whether the two issues that I raised in my letter are of any concern to the Royal College of Psychiatrists. This puts our shared goals of “fully informed consent” and patient safety at risk. It also hinders progress in “Realistic Psychiatry” and with the over-medicalisation of life (the BMJ call this “too much medicine”). As you are aware we now have nearly 1 in 5 Scots taking antidepressants. For expressing concern about this, and the lack of evidence-base to support such long-term prescribing, the Scottish Division of the College described me as “difficult” and John, you have been published in a National newspaper saying that those who share less than positive experiences of antidepressants are “demonisers”.
I note that in the current BMJ, Professor Gerada states that “a sense of belonging is vital for doctors”:
For openly asking questions about philosophy and ethics of current Psychiatric practice I have had to live with little, to no, “sense of belonging”. The College has done its best to marginalise me and to discredit me. This has felt to me as cruel. I always try to be respectful and constructive. In terms of my approach to transparency and openness I do not share the thoughts of Professor Sir Simon Wessely who argues that matters in relation to public health should be kept confidential. To do so he, and others, have outlined in the BMJ how they use “soft power” “behind closed doors”.
As this will be my last letter to you I would urge the College to restore ethics to the very heart of all that we do. Our mental well-being should not need branding or “re-branding”. I will continue to urge all Royal Colleges to support Sunshine legislation. I wish you every success in encouraging doctors to #choosepsychiatry – and indeed not to leave psychiatry early as I have. Any loss of experienced doctors will be to the detriment of patients and the profession alike. The GMC, in its workforce report, published this week has come to this very conclusion.
Given that you have ignored several previous communications I am not expecting a reply. However, I will put this letter to you on Hole Ousia so that I can openly share a summary of why I can no longer practise as a psychiatrist.
In my early retirement I intend to do more voluntary work and develop my life as an artist. I am fortunate that my artistic and creative abilities have been recognised by a number of national figures in the Arts, some of whom have become close friends.
Dr Peter J Gordon
Psychiatrist for Older Adults