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Presidential Blog

President leads Covid-19 group

28 March 2020 | by David Murphy

It’s only a week since I last wrote to all members, but it feels like a month! All of our lives, and those of our loved ones and the clients we work with, have been affected in so many ways by the developments over the past week.

I want to update you on the BPS contribution to tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, and its wider impacts on society.

Last Friday, the Board of Trustees discussed the implications of the pandemic for the BPS and, in addition to the need to manage the impact of the crisis on the society itself, we also agreed that a significant effort is required to fulfil our objectives in the context of the pandemic.

Specifically, the current situation presents a major challenge not just to the populations of the UK and our health system, but also those of other countries around the world.

We know that psychology and psychologists have an absolutely crucial role in tackling the pandemic and its wider impacts on society, particularly disadvantaged, marginalized and vulnerable groups, many of whom are disproportionally affected.

Accordingly, the Board of Trustees agreed to the establishment of a BPS-wide Covid-19 coordinating group, reporting directly to us, chaired by myself and with Daryl O’Connor, chair of the Research Board as deputy.

Thanks to the commitment of colleagues, the members were recruited and met for the first time on Wednesday, just two working days after the group was approved in principle!

The equivalent process for setting up the presidential taskforce on diversity and inclusion (which had its first meeting last week - seems like years ago!) was almost exactly six months.

Although there will inevitably be an impact on that task force, we still intend to continue this crucial work remotely through the crisis.

I was also really pleased that one of the first decisions the Covid-19 coordinating group took was to appoint a diversity and inclusion champion, and resolved to make this central to all our work - however fast that work needs to happen.

We had to take pragmatic decisions about the membership of the task force to balance links with member networks, specialist expertise and a range of perspectives - we also want to ensure there is a focus on all four nations and indeed also an international focus, since this is very much a global crisis.

The coordinating group has established a number of workstreams that will evolve as time goes on, with new streams developing and areas of priority changing to reflect needs and also where the group feel that BPS input can make the most valuable contribution and not duplicate existing work.

I should make it clear that the purpose of the coordinating group is to facilitate collaboration and joined-up working across the BPS. This is a good thing at any time but at times of crisis, where resources are stretched and time is very tight, it is essential. I’ve already had a lot of feedback from external partners that they really welcome this and it makes our input much more valuable to them.

To help map out the landscape, I developed a framework, which has benefitted hugely from a lot of feedback on Twitter over the week.

At the coordinating group meeting, based on criteria of urgency and the value added by BPS, we agreed that the initial (others will follow) pressing priority workstreams were as follows (designated lead in brackets).

  1. Disease prevention (Angel Chater, chair Division of Health Psychology)
  2. Staff wellbeing (myself and Julie Highfield, Division of Clinical Psychology Wales)
  3. Effects of confinement, esp. on vulnerable populations (Vivian Hill, chair Division of Educational and Child Psychology)
  4. Psychological care of patients and relatives (Nichola Rooney, chair Northern Ireland Branch)
  5. Adaptations to provision of psychological services and coping for members (Roman Raczka, chair Division of Clinical Psychology England)

Work in all streams has been progressing rapidly given the timescales - the wellbeing of NHS and other frontline staff is obviously a key area. We are planning to release guidance and other resources next week and have been in discussion with NHS partners in all four nations to feed into national planning.

Our overriding principles in this area is to promote effective wellbeing measures at an organisational, team and individual level and to ensure that the provision of psychological service for staff is supportive of, and joined up with, established local provision.

As such we are very actively working with national NHS partners, but at this time we are not recruiting individual volunteers to provide psychological services to NHS colleagues.

We believe that establishing independent, voluntary provision of psychological services to NHS staff from scratch, although clearly well intentioned, is not the most effective course of action, and indeed potentially risks confusion.

This a rapidly developing area and we will continue to update members regularly.

This is clearly a worrying and challenging time for all of us both personally and professionally, but I have been really lifted by the amount of collaboration and mutual support I have experienced this week. Together we will rise.

Stay well, take care and best wishes,

David Murphy
President, British Psychological Society 2019-20

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