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East London Connects to the World

The UK’s Chief Medical Officer formally opened the Newham-based Unit for Social and Community Psychiatry as a World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Mental Health Services Development on Monday 25 March.

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Professor Stefan Priebe; Marie Gabriel; Professor Dame Sally Davies; Principal Simon Gaskell
Professor Stefan Priebe; Marie Gabriel; Professor Dame Sally Davies; Principal Simon Gaskell

Achieving WHO CC status means the Unit - part of Queen Mary, University of London - will play a key role in supporting the development of international mental health policies and the implementation of the European Mental Health Action Plan.

The Unit, established in 1997, is one of 18 WHO Collaborating Centres in the field of mental health in Europe and the only one specifically designated for Mental Health Services Development in the world.

Research at the Unit has already delivered benefits to the local population through improvements to clinical services. This has included the establishment of novel services and treatments such as a model day hospital, body psychotherapy, computer-mediated approaches for clinicians to communicate with patients in the community, and training modules for psychiatrists about how to engage with patients with psychosis.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser for the Department of Health, said: “The Unit is at the forefront of evidence-based research and service delivery and will help to develop the WHO mental health strategy, which will have significant outcomes for the NHS and public health.”

Professor Stefan Priebe, Director of the Unit for Social and Community Psychiatry, said: “This is an important development for the Unit, and welcome recognition for the international expertise we have built up since we started from scratch 15 years ago.  WHO collaborating status will increase our opportunity to contribute to mental health policies in Europe, and will benefit mental health services locally through research-driven innovation and internationally leading expertise.”

The official launch was also attended by Dr Matt Muijen from the World Health Organisation, senior management of the Trust, and Queen Mary, local commissioners, politicians, and key collaborators from both academia and the NHS.

Professor Simon Gaskell, Principal of Queen Mary said: “The Unit is a microcosm of what exemplifies Queen Mary’s commitment to the local community; through its innovative research, the Unit has played a major part in shaping and supporting local mental health services. Achieving WHO CC status will ensure that the Unit's work will have a significant impact internationally, as well as in east London.

The Trust’s Chair, Marie Gabriel, said: “This is an exciting development and we look forward to sharing expertise to raise the quality of care for people here and further afield.”

The Unit for Social and Community Psychiatry is supported by both Queen Mary and the East London NHS Foundation Trust. It is part of Queen Mary’s Centre for Psychiatry and is based at the Trust’s Newham Centre for Mental Health.

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