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RCN mental health fellows

The RCN Fellowship and Honorary Fellowship are the highest awards the Royal College of Nursing can bestow. 

They are given to those who have made an exceptional contribution to advancing the science and practice of mental health nursing and the improvement of health care – whether through clinical innovation, leadership, research or practice development.

Who do you know someone who deserves this recognition?  As an RCN member, if there is someone who you admire, respect and deserves to join this eminent group, you can nominate them here.

Professor Phil Barker

Professor Phil Barker

Phil was working as an artist when he began his training as a nurse in 1970. A decade later, he had trained as a nurse psychotherapist and begun his PhD research with women with a diagnosis of ‘manic-depressive psychosis’. In 1980 he decided to refocus all his energies on psychiatric nursing. He led Scotland’s first and only behaviour therapy programme for nurses  at Royal Dundee Liff hospital, where he became the UK’s first’Clinical Nurse Consultant in psychotherapy. After gaining his doctorate in 1986 he went on to establish the first Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) programme in the late 1980s at the University of Dundee and in 1989 became the Director of Studies of the University’s interdiisciplinary mental health master’s programme. In 1992 he was appointed the first Professor of Psychiatric Nursing Practice at the University of Newcastle in England. Always committed to education in practice he maintained his clinical role throughout his ten year tenure of his professorship.

He was awarded the RCN Fellowship in 1995 and received the Distinguished Professors Award (Red Gate Award) from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Tokyo in 2000. He was made a Doctor of the University at Oxford Brookes University in 2001 and in 2006 received the Inaugural Eileen Skellern Lifetime Achievement Award in London in 2006.

In 2002 he stepped down from his chair at Newcastle and took a number of visiting professorships abroad, including a five-year appointment at Trinity College Dublin. Throughout his career Phil maintained a private psychotherapy practice and consultancy, along with his wife Poppy Buchanan-Barker. 

In 2008, Phil and his wife Poppy were awarded the Thomas Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to Civil Liberties at the University of New York. The citation included reference to their ‘repositioning (of mental health care) as a type of secular-spiritual humane service”.

Phil was one of the founding editors of the Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing in 1994 and has published 20 books, over 60 book chapters and more than 300 academic and clinical papers. He was among the first to promote the concept of ‘recovery’ in mental health when he helped develop a mutual support group for women with bipolar disorder in Dundee in the early 1980s. He further developed the recovery focus with the Tidal Model of mental health recovery and reclamation, which he researched in practice in the late 90s at Newcastle. This remains one of few models of recovery with a formal research evidence base. In 2010 he was voted one of the most influential nurses of the past 60 years, in Nursing Times poll of nursing champions - the ‘Diamond Twenty’.

Phil Barker’s development of the Tidal Model with his wife Poppy has taken the concept of recovery and reclamation around the world – from North America and South America, throughout Europe, to Japan and Australasia. Since 2006 he has been recognised as a key nursing theorist, by the editors of the major text, Nursing Theorists and Their Work.

In 2010 he returned to his first vocation, painting. Taking the name of his grandfather and mentor Phil McLoughlin as his pseudonym he has since won numerous major awards and been elected to the Society of Scottish Artists. He still conducts some Tidal Model workshops  each year in Europe, where his work has been translated in several countries. However, he believes that:“It is important to step aside. Younger generations of nurses need to make their unique contribution to the field.”

Professor Phil Burnard

Professor Phil Burnard

Many nurses and other health care professionals owe Phil a debt of gratitude for all that he has done, via his books and articles, where he has illuminated interactional and interpersonal skills, how to do face-to-face communication better, how to do research and how to write for publication in ways which are immediately understandable and accessible.  Phil has been a prolific author, he has written over 181 articles one of them – A method of analysing interview transcripts in qualitative research, published in Nurse Education Today in 1991 – attracting well over 1,000 citations, 28 of which are in papers published in 2018.  Phil has been a longstanding Fellow of the Florence Nightingale Foundation, became a Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing 2012 and was awarded the Eileen Skellern Life Time Achievement Award (2018). Phil was awarded the RCN Fellowship in 2012.
Professor Tony Butterworth

Professor Tony Butterworth CBE

Tony was educated as a mental health and general nurse. Appointed to be the inaugural Queens Nursing Institute Professor of Community Nursing at the University of Manchester, where he undertook original research into clinical supervision for nurses and into the development of psychosocial interventions for people with schizophrenia. 

In 1994 he was invited by the UK Secretary of State for Health to Chair to lead a national review of mental health nursing leading to a report ‘Partnerships in Care’. He has been – General Secretary for the WHO Collaborating Centres for Nursing, Head of Department, Dean of School and Pro-Vice Chancellor for external affairs for the University of Manchester. He became the founding Chair of the Council of Deans of Health in 1998 and in 2002 he returned to the NHS in the East Midlands as Chief Executive for the Trent Workforce Confederation becoming Director of a Research Centre for Clinical and Academic Workforce Innovation at the University of Lincoln in 2005. He led a government review of clinical academic careers for nursing and the health professions leading to a publication ’Developing the best research professionals’. 

A Non-Executive Director of the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, he was invited by the Secretary of State for Health to be Chairman until its closure in 2013. Tony was Vice Chair of the RCN Foundation until 2018 and is Vice-President of a registered Charity, the Foundation for Nursing Studies (FoNS). Tony is a Trustee of the Children and Family Counselling Centre in Altrincham and the Burdett Trust for Nursing. Holding Fellowships of the Queens Nursing Institute, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Academy of Medical Sciences, Tony was awarded an RCN Fellowship in 1996.

Yvonne Coghill CBE

Yvonne Coghill CBE

Vice President of the RCN, Yvonne commenced nurse training at Central Middlesex Hospital in 1977, qualified as a general nurse in 1980 and then went on to qualify in mental health nursing and health visiting. In 1986 she secured her first NHS  management job and has since held a number of operational and strategic leadership posts.

In 2004, she had the unique opportunity to work at the Department of Health as Private Secretary to the Chief Executive of the NHS, Sir Nigel Crisp. In her three years at the Department, Yvonne held several strategic posts, including Programme Director for the Cleaner Hospitals Programme and External Relations Nursing Officer to the Chief Nursing Officer of England.

Yvonne is currently the Director – WRES Implementation in NHS England, and is a member of the equality and diversity council at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) in the United States where she has helped develop their inclusion strategy, delivered workshops and was co-chair at their national forum in Orlando 2015. She has also been keynote speaker at the National Association of Health Service Executives (NAHSE) annual conference in New Orleans. She continues to work closely with world expert on health and race Professor D. Williams, of Harvard University School of Public Health.

Recently Yvonne has used her knowledge and experience of mental health to act as a commissioner on a report commissioned by the Royal college of Psychiatrists and chaired by Lord Crisp on ‘Adult mental health in patient services’ which fed into the NHS England task force review on mental health services in England. In 2013 Yvonne was voted by colleagues in the NHS as one of the top 50 most inspirational women, one of the top 50 most inspirational nurse leaders and one of the top 50 BME pioneers, two years in a row. Yvonne was awarded an OBE for services to healthcare in 2010 and was appointed as Director for WRES Implementation in June 2015.  Yvonne was awarded the RCN Fellowship in 2018.

Roland Dix

Roland Dix

Roland,  a Gloucestershire mental health nurse consultant, works at Together NHS Foundation Trust. Roland has created a number of health care innovations that have significantly contributed to the psychiatric intensive care and low secure movement in this country. He has led on the design and commissioning of a new nurse-driven psychiatric intensive care which developed a national and international reputation as a centre of excellence.

Despite his high profile, he remains actively involved in clinical work and is highly valued by the patients he works with and the staff he leads. Roland began his career in 1984 as a health care assistant at Horton Road Hospital Gloucester. He was appointed editor-in-chief of the international Journal of Psychiatric Intensive care for Cambridge University Press in 2005. Over the last 20 years he has held a number of posts within Gloucestershire mental health services and the last 10 years as the Consultant and clinical lead for Gloucestershire’s Greyfriars Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).   The new Greyfriars PICU building opened in 2010. The service has gained both a national and international reputation as a centre of excellence. Over the years, it has received visitors from several European countries as well as the from US, Australia and Asia.

Roland was awarded the RCN Fellowship in 2014. Commenting on his award Roland said “I am extremely pleased that services in Gloucestershire have been recognized in this way. I was very surprised and pleased to receive the honour which is down to the commitment and hard work of a large number of people I have been privileged to work with over the years.” 
Professor Dawne Freshwater

Professor Dawn Freshwater, BA Manc., PhD Nott., FRCN, RN, RNT, DipPsych; GAICD

Dawn Freshwater is Vice-Chancellor of the University of Auckland, and has been a globally recognised as a leader in world-class universities for more than a decade, whilst remaining committed to her academic discipline, that of Mental Health.

Professor Freshwater was awarded her PhD at the University of Nottingham (1998) and is a highly experienced and driven supporter of translational research and research-led teaching. Her contribution to the fields of Public Health (specifically Mental Health and Forensic Mental Health) and in researching Leadership practices won her the highest honour in her field - the Fellowship of the Royal College of Nursing (FRCN).

As an academic, Professor Freshwater has contributed to almost 200 publications, including peer-reviewed papers, research reports, books, editorials and media contributions, and she continues to supervise PhD students.

As an active researcher and scholar, Professor Freshwater also served on the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) Research, Research Excellence Framework (REF) panel. She has also acted as an advisor to the United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).  Freshwater’s research focuses on two key themes: psychological therapies research and offender health research. She links this to medical humanities, with a focus on utilising narrative methodologies – in particular, in the arts, music and textual analysis. Professor Freshwater is a strong advocate for values-led and inclusive leadership, about which she has written and researched extensively.

Dawn became the University's first female Vice-Chancellor in March 2020, after serving as the University of Western Australia's Vice-Chancellor and Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Registrar for six years (2014-2020). In her role as Vice-Chancellor of The University of Western Australia (UWA), she led the development of UWA's ambitious 2030 Vision and 2025 Strategic Plan, and a significant transformation agenda. She was instrumental in leading the development of the UWA Public Policy Institute, creating a bridge between academic research and government, public and business needs, and delivering real-world policy impact and solutions to local and global challenges for the Indian Ocean Rim and the broader Indo-Pacific region.

Professor Freshwater was the first female Chair of the G08 Research Intensive Universities in Australia, and Deputy Chair (2018-2020) having previously been a Director.  She is currently a Board Director of the Perth USAsia Centre, Chair of the Partnership Board of the World University Network (WUN), member of the National Health and Research Medical Council's Women in Health Science Committee (NHMRC) and a board Director of Research Australia. She is also a member of Chief Executive Women (CEW) Engagement Committee.

A strong advocate of industry engagement and of the role of higher education in supporting trade agreements, Professor Freshwater maintains strong professional ties with key figures in education and industry in Asia, Europe and the United States, and was until recently member of the Federal Minister’s Higher Education Industry advisory group. Freshwater currently Chair’s the University of Auckland’s UniServices, research and innovation ecosystem. 

Professor Hugh McKenna CBE

Professor Hugh McKenna, CBE, PhD, B.Sc(Hons), RMN, RGN, RNT, DipN(Lond), AdvDipEd, FFN RCSI, FEANS, FRCN, FAAN, MEA

Hugh is a general and psychiatric nurse by background and, until recently, was Dean of Medical School Development and PVC Research and Innovation at Ulster University. He has over 250 publications, including 16 books. He was awarded Commander of the British Empire (CBE) and is a Fellow of four prestigious organisations. In 2013, he was presented with the Outstanding Achievement Award by the Royal College of Nursing and in 2014, he was presented with a lifetime achievement Award at the Institute of Psychiatry. In a 2018 Government report he was named as one of the 70 most influential nurses in the 70 year history of the NHS. 

Currently, he is a Visiting Professor in universities in Slovenia and Australia. He chairs the UK Research Excellence Framework panel for Pharmacy, Dentistry, Allied Health Professions, Biomedical Sciences, Nursing and Midwifery. He has also chaired a clinical health research quality panel for the Swedish Research Council and panels for the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation. He is chair of Inspire Wellbeing, the largest mental health, learning disability and addiction charity on the island of Ireland. Recently he received an Honorary Doctorate from Edinburgh Napier University and the University of Maribor.  n 2019, he was appointed to the Academia Europaea, founded as an initiative of The Royal Society to be the official scientific advisory body for the EU. In March 2020, he was appointed Non-Executive Director of the Western Health & Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland and a Trustee of Alzheimer’s Society UK.   

Professor Ian Norman

Professor Ian Norman

Ian is the Executive Dean of the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care at King’s College London, UK. He is also the editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Nursing Studies and a non-executive director of Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Trust.  He is a qualified mental health nurse, general nurse, social worker and accredited cognitive and behavioural psychotherapist with clinical experience of supporting people with mental health difficulties living in the community. 

Ian is the author of more than 200 journal articles, conference papers (national and international), books, book chapters and research reports. The Art and Science of Mental Health Nursing (published in its 4th edition in 2018) is a standard textbook for mental health nurse education in the UK and is well known internationally. Ian was awarded the RCN Fellowship in 2009. 
For further information see: Professor Ian Norman

Malcolm Rae

Malcolm Rae OBE

Malcolm is a British senior registered specialist in mental nursing/forensic psychiatry, mental health consultant, nursing educator and civil servant. He began his career in public service as a NHS Mental Health Nursing Officer. He served as Director, Community Psychiatric Nurses Association, retiring after five years in 2002. As of 2011, he serves as Joint Lead, Acute Care Programme, National Institute of Mental Health in England. Malcolm was the first recipient of a Fellowship awarded by NAPICU, as an acknowledgement of his significant work and contributions in the field of psychiatric intensive care. He is Co Founder of State of Mind Sport, the programme was instigated to promote positive mental health in Rugby League in particular, but also seeks to reach a wider audience and help embed its message across sporting communities. Malcolm was awarded the RCN Fellowship in 2001.
Tom Sandford

Tom Sandford

Tom, a mental health nurse, spent his early career in Child and Family Therapy services at Guy's Hospital, before managing mental health services in a variety of contexts across the London boroughs of Camden and Islington. He then moved to the RCN as their mental health adviser for 5 years, where he significantly reprofiled mental health and mental health nursing within the RCN and reinforced the role of MH nurses within the Ministerial Task Force on mental health.  He was then appointed as the RCN regional director for London and was subsequently appointed as the executive director for RCN services across England, a post he held for 15 years, before retiring in 2018.

Since retiring from the RCN Tom has maintained his interest in MH service development as the mental health associate at c3 - collaborating for health, a public health charity founded by Christine Hancock. The most recent MH product from c3 - collaborating for health has been a well being webinar for nurses that addresses the shocking sickness absence that is attributed to mental health and stress related problems in the NHS nursing workforce and which focusses on them reviewing and improving their own mental health and wellbeing. Tom was awarded the RCN Fellowship 2011.

Professor Ben Thomas

Professor Ben Thomas

Ben is a Professor of Mental Health and Learning Disabilities at the School of Health and Social Care, London South Bank University, and is Expert Adviser for Mental Health and Patient Safety at NHS Improvement. He is a director and trustee for a number of charities. Ben has served on a number of ministerial reviews and advisory committees to governments including Malaysia, South Korea, Australia and China. He chairs the Mental Health Independent Advisory Group for the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicides and Homicides and is a member of the UK Expert Mental Health Nurse Advisory Group. Ben is a Honorary Senior Fellow at Kingston University and St George’s University of London. Ben was awarded the RCN Fellowship in 1997.
Baroness Mary Watkins of Tavistock

Baroness Mary Watkins of Tavistock

Mary is Emeritus professor of healthcare leadership at Plymouth University and Deputy Vice Chancellor of the university. She trained at the Wolfson School of Nursing, Westminster Hospital (RGN, 1976) and at South London and Maudsley Nursing School (RMN, 1979. She obtained her PhD from King's College London in 1985. She was nominated for life peerage by the House of Lords Appointments Commission and was created Baroness Watkins of Tavistock, of Buckland Monachorum in the County of Devon, on 2 November 2015. She sits in the House of Lords as a crossbencher.  Mary was awarded the RCN Fellowship 2019.

Page last updated - 10/11/2021