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President’s update: August 2018

Now I know you have all been missing my regular blog. Actually I don’t know, because no one has said a word about it. But my extra sensory powers, and also my self-esteem, tell me that you have been asking very little else other than why didn’t football come home, and when will another instalment of the blog appear.

My apologies for putting you through this torment but am afraid there have been reasons. I have been overwhelmed by some other pressing business, most particularly around the review of the Mental Health Act that I am leading. What was promised to be a commitment of a day and a half per week, has turned into a day and a half per day. My real day job (defined as those who actually pay me) also needs to be looked after. And then there have also been some issues here at the RSM.

The phrase “the bubble” is much used these days. There is the “Westminster bubble” in which the most minor change of a very junior minister is the biggest talking point of the day, and where people sit during Prime Minister’s Question Time is given as much attention as the pronouncements of Paul the Octopus, who was able to predict the results of matches in a previous world cup with remarkable accuracy, until he was accidentally made into a carpaccio. The word “bubble” is now used by anyone to describe an activity or group from which they are excluded, and seems to have replaced older concepts such as the “establishment”, “cabal” or “mafia”.

But I am struck by how much those at the centre of any organisation, large or small, really do live in a “bubble”. So anyone who has been senior in a medical Royal College will know that the issues that preoccupy us at head office are rarely reflected in the membership. When I went on the road as President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych), it was clear our members had only the haziest idea of who, for example, was our Chief Executive. That was a little surprising – she had been in the job for 36 years when I took over. Very few people remain in any top job for that length of time — Stalin managed it, and so do most of those dictators who end up being called “President for Life”, and are associated with human rights horrors on a grandiose scale.

Vanessa, that’s the name of the CEO at the RCPsych, was of course no tin pot dictator, but a brilliant and muc- loved leader. Loved that is by those who knew her, which wasn’t many of the membership. For most of those who paid their subscriptions, they wanted to know that they could get their CPD on line when they needed it, that exams ran smoothly, Congress wasn’t a waste of money (it wasn’t) and that subscriptions were never increased (we did our best but it did happen). Stuff like that. The name at the bottom of the communications was probably known by about the same number of people who can tell you the name of the Chief Cashier of the Bank of England, even though you all see his name every time you pick up a bank note!

So I know that when I tell you that we are losing our Chief Executive, Helen Gordon, I doubt that many of you will catch your breath and gasp in horror. But you should, because it is a sad occasion for the RSM. Helen has decided to relinquish the post, for reasons that are personal, and also sad.

Since she arrived, she started a much-needed process of making changes to the way we do our business, not least to ensure that we balance our books and safeguard our financial future, as well as changes in our property portfolio, educational strategy and much else.

She is leaving us at the same time as another blonde, the one who was always on “Have I Got News for You” and ran the Foreign Office, briefly. However, as Helen is a modest likeable person, known for her reliability, tact and discretion, the analogy can go no further. Anyway, all of those that know her will join with me in thanking her for starting the process of change, which must and will continue, and in wishing her well for the future.

And for those that don’t, which is probably most of you, rest assured that the business will go on. Your journal will continue to arrive. The Domus will remain the best deal in London. The 300+ meetings we run a year will continue at the same high standard as before. The library will remain at your disposal, and indeed provide one the nicest places in the country to study and write.

I will let you know when we have another Captain on the bridge, but until then relax, there are no icebergs ahead. Other than the great big one that is the magnum opus of that other blonde I mentioned earlier – but that’s another story for another day.

If any of you knew the answer to that without cheating, the RSM will stand you a drink in the bar next time you are in the building.

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