Data Protection: The Royal College of Psychiatrists

Dr Peter Gordon
Retired NHS Psychiatrist

2 April 2022

Dear Congress Team,
Please treat this as an FOI request.

Please can you share the links to the RCPsych webpage and RCPsych Congress App that has the database of declarations of competing financial interests for all those involved in the Congress in any way.

If this is not available can the College give a full, open and honest explanation as to why not.

Can the College confirm the full net profits made by The International Congress for the last ten years [2011 to 2021 inclusive]

I look forward to a reply within 20 working days.
Yours sincerely
Dr P J Gordon

From: DataProtection []
Sent: 10 May 2022
Subject: RE: International Congress, June 2022, Edinburgh

Dear Dr Gordon,
Thank you for your email, which was referred to Data Protection from the International Congress team. Please accept my sincere apologies for the delayed response which is due to technical issues with Outlook.

Please kindly note that the College does not fall under the scope of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 as it is not defined as a public authority under section 3 of the Act. We are therefore not required to provide you with this information under Freedom of Information Regulations.

This is why I asked the College for public transparency on competing financial issues:

This year’s International Congress of the Royal College of Psychiatrists is scheduled to take place in Edinburgh in June:

The Congress team provide this summary: “Over the four days of the Congress, you will as ever, have the opportunity to attend lectures from up to 17 world renowned keynote speakers and choose from over 70 cutting edge sessions.”

The Congress programme is wide-ranging: “It will feature the best of international academic psychiatry, those with lived experience, families and opinion leaders in mental health from the social and political sphere.”

In this post, the extensive marketing opportunities for the College are shared alongside competing financial interests of some of the speakers. It is not possible to be accurate about such competing financial interests as the UK has no Sunshine legislation. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has consistently failed to support the introduction of Sunshine legislation.

The International Congress has generated, year after year, ‘large net surpluses’ for the Royal College of Psychiatrists, as shared in their Annual Reports.

This was the ‘net Surplus’ for the 2018 International Congress:

The 2021 International Congress offers a wide range of speakers:

The College has not made available: a single, searchable register of declarations of competing financial interests for all speakers – and all those involved with – the 2022 International Congress.

In 2016, Vanessa Cameron, who was the [then] CEO of the Royal College of Psychiatrists stated this in the Psychiatric Bulletin:

What follows is an incomplete account of the competing interests of some of those who will give educational talks at the 2022 Congress [please note all details come from declarations made in peer-reviewed journal publications and cover a range of years and not just the last 3 years].

Professor Oliver Howes  is the current Chair of the Psychopharmacology Committee of the Royal College of Psychiatrists . Last year I shared an appraisal of this committee in terms of transparency in relation to competing interests. I shared this appraisal with the College but had no reply.

Much of a decade has now passed since the [then] CEO of the Royal College of Psychiatrists stated that the College had “an appropriately puritanical relationship with Pharma”. I am sorry to conclude that this reassurance is nonsense. The College has however repeatedly stated that it considers its approach to competing financial interests as “sufficiently robust”. But without full transparency how can we be sure that this is not further false reassurance?

When it comes to the College, what then can we be sure of? Well, that at least, is more straightforward: it’s boom time!

Many years ago, Professor Sir Simon Wessely, as President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists gave this reassurance to Professor Ben Goldacre. Few promises have proved less empty.

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