As part of his work to increase recruitment into Psychiatry Professor Sir Simon Wessely has been touring UK Medical Schools, on Tuesday 16th February he spoke to us here at Warwick.
Professor Sir Simon Wessely was knighted in the 2013 New Year’s Honours List and in 2014 he was elected as the next President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Professor Wessely spoke to Warwick Medical Students about Mental Health in the armed forces, presenting data comparing the incidences of PTSD among British troops compared to American troops. His major conclusion was that the influence of culture and society on our mental health should not be underestimated and that these findings has wide ranging implications beyond service personnel.
Speaking to Professor Wessely before his talk I asked what had attracted him to Psychiatry, he said he wasn’t good enough with his hands, which ruled out surgery, and he enjoyed using his brain to solve complex problems, something that in Psychiatry you get the opportunity to do every day. Speaking to him about changes to psychiatry and how he sees the profession developing he said that RCPSYCH and RCGP were working closely together to improve general medical training within Psychiatry in order to address the terrible physical health of those with mental health conditions. He spoke passionately about increasing the number of foundation placements in psychiatry and how while applications for specialty training places overall has decreased, applications for psychiatry training has actually gone up!
Hopefully these changes are a step in the right direction for Psychiatry. Professor Wessely was able to stay and mingle with our members while enjoying refreshments kindly provided to us thanks to our sponsors Wesleyan, The MDU and RCPSYCH.
Simon Wessely is Professor and Head of the Department of Psychological Medicine and Vice Dean for Academic Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP), King’s College London. He is a clinical liaison psychiatrist, with a particular interest in unexplained symptoms and syndromes. As Vice Dean he has overall responsibility for undergraduate and postgraduate psychiatry training. He also remains research active (with over 750 original publications), continuing to publish on many areas of psychiatry, psychological treatments, epidemiology and military health.
Born and educated in Sheffield, he studied medical sciences and history of art at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and then finished his medical training at University College Oxford, graduating in 1981. He obtained his medical membership in Newcastle, before moving to London’s Maudsley Hospital to train in psychiatry, where he also obtained a Master’s and Doctorate in epidemiology. His doctoral thesis was on crime and schizophrenia. Professor Wessely has been a consultant liaison psychiatrist at King’s College Hospital and the Maudsley Hospital since 1991, where he set up the first NHS service for sufferers from chronic fatigue syndrome.
He became Director of the Chronic Fatigue Research Unit at King’s in 1994 and of the Gulf War Illness Research Unit in 1996, which then became the King’s Centre for Military Health Research. He is Civilian Consultant Advisor in Psychiatry to the British Army in which capacity he has visited services in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is a trustee of Combat Stress, the principal UK charity for veterans with mental health problems.