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National launch of RCOMH 29 January 2009

On Thursday 29 January 2009 we launched RCOMH nationwide at a special event held at The Royal Society of Medicine in London with key people and partners in attendance. We were delighted that representatives from all of RCOMH’s founding partners, The College of Occupational Therapists Specialist Section in Mental Health, South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear NHS Trust, Tees, Esk & Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, developing partners (a service user research organisation) and The Retreat based in York, were able to attend. The event was chaired by Pauline Gacal, Dean of Faculty of Health & Life Sciences, and Professor Dianne Willcocks, Vice Chancellor, officially opened the launch.

In her speech Dr Katrina Bannigan, Director of RCOMH, explained that the Centre is the first research centre of its kind in the world reflecting a shift in approach to research capacity building from working with individuals on a one-to-one basis to facilitating a research network across and between disciplines helping enhance the evidence base for occupation, mental health and well being. She also outlined how this will be achieved by developing strong, strategic, local, national and international partnerships to bring key researchers in the field of occupation and mental health together.

Dr Elizabeth White, Head of Research & Development, College of Occupational Therapists, endorsed the work of RCOMH and described how the Centre had a role to play in achieving both the aims of ‘Recovering Ordinary Lives’, The College of Occupational Therapists strategy for Occupational Therapy in Mental Health Services, and the establishing centres of excellence for occupation focussed research. She set RCOMH some challenges for being benchmarked as a centre of excellence which will no doubt drive us on to achieving these standards.

Gabrielle Richards, Professional Head of Occupational Therapy, South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, shared what it meant for her organisation to be working in partnership with RCOMH. Her talk not only reflected on the great history of the Bethlem and Maudsley hospitals but also looked to the future. She focussed on social inclusion and the need to keep the people we serve at the heart of our work which was a timely reminder that RCOMH’s mission is not just about developing world class research in occupation and mental health but about influencing best practice. This was a strong note on which to end the speeches and it set the tone for the chat over afternoon tea. 

The launch provided a real opportunity for celebration but it was also about looking to the future. A lot of the chat on the day was about the work that needs to be done to ensure that we are able to bring people together, grow research capacity, and conduct relevant programmes of research. We hope that relationships developed on the day will result in people sharing their expertise, more people getting involved in our research, and an increased awareness of RCOMH’s work generally.

Overall it feels like the launch has established RCOMH as a unique collaboration that will bring people together, who use and work in mental health settings, to develop the evidence base around occupation and mental health to influence best practice. Here’s to the future…