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's first experience with nursing was as a nursing assistant in the late 1960s. He took the job to pay off debts, liked it so well that he made it his life's work and worked as a mental health nurse for over 35 years. Always innovative, he supported alternative joint projects. In 1986, he formed a community support group for bipolar women. He believed that people should be offered help for their distress but it should not be forced upon them.

After receiving a PhD in psychiatric nursing, he became the United Kingdom's first professor of psychiatric nursing practice at the University of Newcastle in England. He was also a visiting professor at a number of international universities. Retiring from the University of Newcastle in 2002, his colleagues remember him as being very good company but a nonconformist with his long beard and red clogs. He now devotes time to being with his wife and his love of painting but is still present in the psychiatric field. A psychotherapist in private practice, he is also visiting professor at several universities. He is actively writing, speaking, researching and giving workshops. He says that there is still much to be done in the psychiatric field and that he would rather be an activist than a nursing leader. During his career, he and his wife wrote over 18 books and 50 book chapters, and he published over 150 academic papers.  Phil was awarded the RCN Fellowship in 1995.

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. Tony was awarded the 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 Dawn Freshwater

Professor Dawn Freshwater

Dawn Freshwater’s research concentrated on forensic psychology, and the impact of marginalised groups with severe mental health issues.

Dawn was appointed the Pro-Vice Chancellor (PVC) at the University of Leeds in 2011. She led the School of Medicine application for an Athena SWAN award and served a member of the assessment panel for the Research Excellence Framework (REF).[3] During this time, she served on the Council of Deans for Nursing and Midwifery and was a trustee of the Florence Nightingale Foundation.

In 2014 Dawn moved to Australia.  Dawn joined the University of Western Australia as Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor in 2016.  In 2017 she was made the Vice Chancellor, and led the first Inclusion and Division strategy. She was the first woman to be made Chair of the Group of Eight in 2018.  She also led the Matariki network of universities. At the University of Western Australia, Dawn established the Public Policy Institute, which translates research into real-world solutions for the Indo-Pacific region.  In 2019, Dawn became the first woman to be appointed Vice Chancellor of the University of Auckland. Dawn was awarded the RCN Fellowship in 2002.

Professor Hugh McKenna CBE

Professor Hugh McKenna CBE

Professor Hugh McKenna’s published work has been cited more than 10,000 times. He has received a host of awards, including fellowships of the RCN, the European Academy of Nursing and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, an RCN lifetime achievement award and an honorary degree from Edinburgh Napier University. He was awarded a CBE in 2008 for services to healthcare and to the community in Northern Ireland. In 2009 he was made an international fellow of the American Academy of Nursing – only the third person in Europe to be given the honour and the 15th worldwide. Hugh was awarded the RCN Fellowship in 2003.
Professor Ian Norman

Professor Ian Norman

Ian is the Assistant Principal (Academic Performance) and Executive Dean of the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery at King’s College London, UK. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Nursing Studies.  He is a qualified mental health nurse, general nurse, social worker. He maintains his clinical skills through an honorary appointment as a cognitive behavioural psychotherapist at the Maudsley Hospital, London UK.

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.

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 - 13/12/2019