I promised an update on my morning with the psychiatrists in Sedgefield, and I
really really tried to get it to you yesterday. Don’t blame me. Blame something
called Globetrotter Connect on my laptop. Whichever bits of the globe it was
connected to, they didn’t include any of the bits where I was trotting and from
where I was trying to send something. 

It is a horrible feeling, isn’t it, as you toil (moderately) over a blog, press
the button to send it to the website, and up pops that ‘cannot display the
page’ thing. What I want to know is – where do the words go? They vanished all
over the North East of England.

I tried in a hotel, then a car, then Darlington train station, then
the train itself, each time starting all over again. Then I gave up and said
sod it, I’ll wait till I get to my desktop.

Anyway, it went fine thank you. It was in the hotel in Sedgefield where I used
to go for a nap on election days while TB was careering round the constituency.

I did my usual stuff on stigma and discrimination, a good q and a, a book
signing then headed back to London for my night out with the Calendar Girls to
raise money for Leukaemia Research at the Noel Coward theatre last night. Vlog
and clips from my on stage q and a with the original Calendar Girls to follow.
Great show. Fantastic cast. Audience moving effortlessly from gales of laughter
to rivers of tears. Don’t miss it. Buy the new calendar as well. Oh, and I
secured a pledge from the oldest Calendar Girl, Beryl Bamforth, that they’ll do
another one in ten years, when she’ll be 85. ‘I’ll use my zimmerframe to hide
things,’ she said. 

On the NHS psychiatry event, the most interesting thing
for me was the little speech by the guy introducing me, NHS psychiatrist and
education director Lenny Cornwall.

He spoke about a piece of research in Norway, analysing the views of doctors
and medical students about what diseases, operations and branches of medicine
they most valued and respected.
This led to something called a ‘disease
prestige’ league table!

Top of the league was myocardial infarction (don’t ask me), followed by
leukaemia (excellent) with spleen rupture in the bronze medal position, brain
tumour fourth and testicle cancer fifth.

They only had 38 conditions and diseases to choose from and mental health came
way down the list. Schizophrenia was 34th (trailing inguinal hernia, sciatica
and femoral neck fracture). Depression was 35th, anxiety 37th, with only
fibromyalgia (don’t ask me 2) lower in the relegation zone.

I was pleased to see that my other illnesses, ulcerative colitis and asthma,
were holding their own mid-table but it was depressing (in a not literal sense
of the word) to see mental illnesses so far down.

A separate survey on
branches of medicine had brain surgery as the Barcelona of the disease prestige
table, followed by Man U as thoracic surgery, cardiology, anesthesia and
paediatrics. Psychiatry was fourth bottom, with physical medicine,
dermatovenerology and geriatrics all that separated it from the Norwegian
equivalent of the Blue Square Premier.

I know we are not Norway, but the psychiatrists in the room felt it would be
much the same here. Back to the point I made on the blog yesterday about them
sometimes seeing themselves as the Cinderella service.

And this all matters when it comes to fighting and winning battles for
resources in Whitehall, as I will remind the new Health Secretary Andy Burnham
today. He is making his debut big speech as health secretary at the NHS
Confederation conference in Liverpool, and I am due to speak on mental health
stigma and discrimination after him. It seems a good time to remind him that if
one in four of us will directly suffer some kind of mental illness at some
point, that has to be reflected in resources, and the direction of travel set
by his predecessors has to be kept up.