The Psychiatric Trainees’ Committee (PTC) in the United Kingdom

3Royal College pic

In the UK, there is a long history of involvement of doctors in training within the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych). Back in 1973, there existed a ‘Working Party for Trainees’ before the Collegiate Trainee Committee (CTC) was set up in 1979 as a formal committee to represent the interests of doctors in training within the College. The committee underwent a name change in 2006, becoming the Psychiatric Trainees’ Committee (PTC); putting more emphasis on the field of practise the committee represented. This is mentioned not solely for nostalgic purposes, but the PTC is currently considering a further name change to the Psychiatric Registrar’s Committee. This evolution was driven by the recognition that “trainee” is a confusing term for both patients and doctors, and given our profession is tasked with making inferences from the use of language around us, it would seem naïve not to consider the language we use amongst ourselves.

However, the PTC (as is) does much more than just consider language. We are a group of representatives from the entirety of the UK and, importantly, we have representation from the military, medical students, Foundation Year doctors, Ireland (with whom we have a close affiliation) and patient and carer groups. Each elected member sits for a term of 2 years, and the committee is led by an elected Chair, Vice-Chair and Secretary who are each elected for terms of a year. All members are expected to contribute to the work of the PTC, whose focus it is to improve all aspects of psychiatric training and thus improving patient care, through engaging in the PTC meetings held 4 times a year and by being the PTC representative to, and working with, at least 1 College committee.

In recent years the PTC has driven forward work looking at the opportunities and experiences doctors in training have had to conduct psychiatric assessments out of routine hours and in emergencies, which led to the conclusion that these opportunities were being eroded. As a result, amendments are being made to the curricula to ensure that emergency psychiatry remains a core skill for the future Consultant Psychiatrist. In addition, the PTC led a piece of work considering how a further exam at the point of completion of training might look. As one might expect, the doctors in training were not in favour of further examination, and in light of this work, together with the political climate, plans for a further psychiatric exam in the UK have have been put on hold.

Linking interestingly with this was the recent meeting of the UEMS (Union Européenne des Médecins Spécialistes) Psychiatry section, hosted by the RCPsych in London where at the top of the agenda was the proposal for a pan-European exam; which already exists in a number of other specialties. The organisers decided to stage a formal debate with the motion ‘This House Believes that a Europe-wide Psychiatric Exam Would be Good for Psychiatry’. Proposing the motion was President of the section Dr Marc Hermans and the EFPT’s President Dr Mariana Pinto da Costa. Opposing the motion was the section’s Honorary Secretary Dr Torsten Jacobsen and the previous PTC Chair Dr Howard Ryland. Chairing the debate was the RCPsych President Professor Sir Simon Wessely, who polled opinion before the debate started, showing an overwhelming opposition. However, after a fiercely fought contest, with references from the Berlin Wall to dinosaurs, the final vote swung sharply in favour of the proposers!


Pictured (left to right): Marc Hermans, Mariana Pinto Da Costa, Sir Simon Wessely, Howard Ryland and Torsten Jacobsen.

The PTC does a lot of work on engagement with the doctors in training; publishing a quarterly newsletter,  “The Registrar”, and we work hard to enhance the future of psychiatry by supporting the recruitment of talented doctors into the field of psychiatry.

3Festival Internacional Cinema MédicoSome of the initiatives that have been done in collaboration with the PTC include MedFest, which has grown rapidly from the involvement of a few medical schools in the UK to an international event spanning five continents. The concept is simple; a number of short films with a psychiatric or wider medical theme are chosen, a panel of speakers selected, and then the films are shown. The panel then reflect on the films before wider discussion occurs amongst the audience. This year’s theme is Global Medicine & Civilisations, looking at diverse issues, such as traditional healing, use of restraint and the effects of immigration.

(For more information visit the website link above or contact Dr Howard Ryland if you are interested in hosting an event (

The PTC is also in the process of developing Docbate, an annual medical student debating event designed to be a fun introduction to the world of medico-politics.

There are new challenges afoot, such as the revamp of post-graduate medical education by way of the Shape of Training review in the UK and the ever-increasing need for an international approach to healthcare more widely. However, with continued trainee engagement both in the UK and with our counterparts across Europe (with whom we have been affiliated since the inception of the EFPT and having hosted the recent Forum in London), the future of psychiatry for both doctors and patients seems bright.

Dr Matt Tovey (Vice-Chair, PTC)
Dr Howard Ryland (Immediate Past Chair, PTC)

Twitter – @RCPsychTrainees

Posted in @