Despite ongoing COVID-related challenges at the time of the conference, the Faculty managed to put in place an exciting two-day event, albeit delivered remotely. The event was the 2nd virtual Faculty of Neuropsychiatry Annual Conference.
Transforming some of these challenges into real opportunities, the Faculty has been able to secure a number of internationally renowned speakers for this year’s conference. Delegates were able to join from around the globe to utilise this educational opportunity. Approximately 275 delegates and speakers supported the event over the 2 days and displayed 23 posters. The conference welcomed colleagues from various countries including Australia, Canada, Pakistan, New Zealand and Sri Lanka and received excellent feedback.
Looking at how new research findings can be translated into meaningful clinical care and excellent services, was the main theme across the two days, including a session developed in conjunction with the highly regarded Neurological Alliance. Colleagues also had a great opportunity to hear about the real worlds of psychiatric and neurological illnesses, treatments and care plans from a personal experience perspective. The development of the MS Together initiative for young people who have been diagnosed with MS was particularly inspiring to hear about. The conference was also privileged to include a session organised and delivered by the rapidly growing International Neuropsychiatric Association; this offered educational highlights from the life of the esteemed late Professor Alwyn Lishman. The Scientific and Educational Legacy of Alwyn Lishman (1931-2021) was such an inspiration for conference participants from various generations. The session was chaired by Professor Anthony David and a number of eminent speakers have addressed various aspects and contributions.
Eileen Joyce talked to the conference delegates about ‘What’s needed now for neuropsychiatry services’. Professor Adrian Williams gave a talk entitled ‘Supporting transformation and recovery of services for people with neurological conditions’. The talk discussed ‘what does good look like’ for Neurology, discussing relevant pathways. Issues around workforce numbers and training were highlighted. Georgina Carr of the Neurological Alliance, provided an overview of the experiences of Alliance member organisations, and the impacts of the pandemic on people with neurological conditions. The recently published report from the National Neuroscience Advisory Group ‘Lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic’ was discussed along with experience from day to day work with voluntary sector organisations and people with neurological conditions.
Delegates also heard how COVID is likely to change our practice and the services we deliver. Colleagues learned about neurological and psychiatric complications of COVID-19. A plenary session entitled neuro-genetics and neurodevelopmental disorder covered important areas. ‘How genetic findings may help treat schizophrenia and prevent Alzheimer’s disease’ was addressed by Professor David Curtis.
The latest developments in the world of Huntington’s Disease were discussed in the context of a dedicated plenary session. The future of drug treatment for Huntington’s disease was addressed by Dr Ralf Reilmann from Germany. Current clinical and preclinical approaches towards potential disease modifying treatments from small molecules to gene therapy and the use of clinical endpoints and biomarkers in development were reviewed and lessons learnt shared. Professor Jean Marc Burgunder of Switzerland talked about what will HD services look like in the future. Novel assessment and treatment modalities will certainly change the way care is delivered and stress the need for exploration of appropriate improvement with the addition of new technical features. It was highlighted that the best use of what is now available will provide an optimal basis for future developments.
The neurological, neuropsychological and medico-legal aspects of mild brain injury were also addressed to cover a wide range of educational needs for our colleagues. Role of neuroinflammation in TBI was discussed by Dr Michael Esser from Calgary, Canada while Biomarkers in TBI was presented by Dr Danielle Sandsmark, Penn, USA. The latter discussed the role of biomarkers in diagnosis, prognosis, and therapeutic monitoring following traumatic brain injury and discussed currently available biomarkers and their appropriate context of use. Emerging biomarkers and their roles in various clinical settings were also discussed.
Medical humanities has always been one of the highlights of the Faculty’s annual conference. At this event, participants heard about ‘Neuropsychiatric Opera’. Whether ‘freedom’ is actually attainable, was also explored. In his talk, Professor Raymond Tallis argued that defending our practical belief in freedom against theoretical objections is perhaps the most important challenge of philosophy. The Faculty has always been maintaining its particular commitment to our trainees. Junior colleagues were given the opportunity to present their posters and deliver oral presentations with an opportunity for award winning!