President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists

On Thursday 2nd July 2020, Professor Wendy Burn will give the President’s Valedictory Address and following this Dr Adrian James will give his Inaugural Address.

When Professor Burn was first elected as President of the College in 2017, I wrote to congratulate her and to wish her all the best in her leadership role. I would now like to offer my best wishes to Professor Burn for the next stage in her professional career.

I am no longer practising Medicine having retired in February 2020. I made the difficult decision to retire early beacuse of concerns over two key issues, one of which related to core professional values. In August 2018, I wrote to the College about this:

I thus welcomed this joint statement by Professor Burn, Sarb Bajwa and Niall Boyce, published in the Lancet at the end of 2018:

Unfortunately, this ‘hope’, that debate will be ‘respectful and constructive’, has not been fulfilled. Indeed the name-calling, wilful provocation and polarisation on social media by some mental health professionals, has been often been anything but ‘respectful and constructive.’ Such that at one stage, President Wendy Burn openly asked “what is the point of all this nastiness?”

In November 2019, before Dr Adrian James was elected as the successor to Professor Burn, the College offered the ‘opportunity to quiz the Presidential hopefuls’. I asked the following question but  found that my question was not considered:

I would like to wish Dr Adrian James all the very best in his tenure as President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. As President,  Dr James will, no doubt, do all that he can to encourage all College Members and Fellows to follow ‘Core Values for Psychiatrists’.  In all fields it is difficult for professionals to maintain an appropriate presence on social media. Professional organisations are well aware of this and that is why Guidance is in place. It  is vital that all members of any organisation know that they must follow this guidance both in their own behaviour and in the way they share comments made by others. Failing to do so risks erosion of trust in the profession and this would be detrimental to all.

Professor Sir Simon Wessely was President of the College before President Burn. In February of this year, at the time of my retiral from Medicine, I shared some of the kind messages that I had from colleagues, patients and carers.  Sir Simon kindly sent me this message by reply: “I would also like to wish you all the best for your retirement, and to recognise the depth of your commitment to your patients and the NHS over the years, and also to your honesty and integrity in a world where both these qualities can be short supply.  I wish you well”