The International Congress [Net Surplus]

This year’s International Congress of the Royal College of Psychiatrists is currently taking place in Edinburgh:

I was born in Edinburgh. I worked as an NHS psychiatrist for 25 years until I retired 2 years ago.  In addition to my Medical Degree [University of Aberdeen] I have an Arts degree [University of Edinburgh]. Since my retirement [taken early] I have become an artist, gardener and volunteer worker.

On the first day of this ‘educationally-accredited‘ Congress I peacefully protested outside the entrance door of the conference centre. I did so independently.  I wore a name badge – as my experience has been that psychiatrists can be quick to discredit [and wrongly label] those who put patient safety first as “scientologists”:


The Congress door was neither open to you nor me but only those who had paid the College:


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.” And this:

The Royal College of Psychiatrists tirelessly promotes the marketing opportunities of the “most prestigious mental health event in the world”:

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:

Outside the 2022 International Congress I carried this placard :

If you do not understand the references in this banner, please do not worry. You are anything but alone! On the day of my protest I spoke to many attendees, and the first question that I was generally asked: “CUMBERLEGE, what is it?”

Only one of those who spoke to me had heard of Cumberlege and this person was unaware of any of the 9 recommendations made in this independent report:

Outside the entrance door to the International Congress I spoke with several College leads. Invariably they were unaware of  the Cumberlege review and its final recommendations:

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has offered no response to the Cumberlege Report.

The failure of the healthcare system to respond to patient concerns is a recurrent theme:

Before I retired as an NHS doctor I resigned from the Royal College of Psychiatrists. I did so on principle. My concern related to the repeated failure of the College to uphold its Core Values:

These values are the founding basis of this College report: College Report 204.

Before giving his opening address to the International Congress I spotted Paul Rees, the CEO of the Royal College of Psychiatrists chatting outside the conference centre with another College lead. With some anxiety I walked over and introduced myself, sharing  who I was and the nature of my peaceful protest. Paul shook my hand warmly. I said to him how much I welcomed that, as CEO of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, he continued to champion core values. I asked him to pass on wider thanks to the Dean, Dr Kate Lovett, for being such an outstanding ethical College lead. As we parted Paul Rees said that “he would speak to Adrian about Cumberlege” [Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists].

Standing on my own outside this “prestigious” International Congress I felt vulnerable and on my own, but what gave me strength was remembering that I was not.

It was lovely to find that, by and large, it was the younger generations of psychiatrists who came up to talk to me. Conversations were kind and understanding. There seems to be greater openness among the younger generation of psychiatrists to lived experience of prescribed psychiatric drugs beyond 8 – 12 weeks. This, I reckon, will help bring about necessary change to what, today, is collectively understood as evidence-based:

In 2005 Dr Fiona Godlee followed Dr Richard Smith as Editor-in-chief of the BMJ. She retired in 2021 this was her last message:

2 Replies to “The International Congress [Net Surplus]”

  1. Dr. Gordon, I cannot thank you enough for having the courage to peacefully remind the Royal College of Psychiatrists that actions speak louder than words. Without the action and policies in place to sustain values expressed, Stating values is but mere lip service. “By their fruits, ye shall know them.”

    Keep speaking truth to power. I stand with you in solidarity from the other side of the pond.


    Sarah Price Hancock, MS, CRC

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