About the author

Peter Hughes, MBBAO BCh, FRCPsych, Masters in Mental Health Policy and Services

Consultant Psychiatrist in General Adult Psychiatry, Global Mental Health Specialist, Southwest London and St George's Mental Health NHS Trust.


Dr Hughes is a consultant psychiatrist and is Chair of The Royal College of Psychiatrists' London Division. He also founded the RCPsych Special Interest Group in Volunteering and International Psychiatry (VIPSIG).


Dr Hughes has been a World Health Organization (WHO) Consultant on the Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) in low and middle-income countries and during humanitarian crises, working in West Africa during the Ebola crisis and also in the mental health field in Asia and the Middle East. He has been Mental Health Lead for the King's Sierra Leone Partnership since 2015.


Email: dppmh@hotmail.com


Declaration of interests: None.


Dr Hughes: 'When preparing this module, I have referenced standard literature and guidelines, as well as my own experiences and learning from field experience as a psychiatrist in the UK. I have also seen psychiatrists in good faith going to emergencies and not following international guidance.


This can lead to unproductive work and a risk of not following the principle of "do no harm". For this reason, I am very happy to have this opportunity to share some of the principles that UK-based psychiatrists should follow.  


Before starting this type of work, I imagined I would be doing a lot of clinical work that focused heavily on PTSD and severe mental health conditions. In this module I will describe how it is far from the case. The role of the UK-based psychiatrist needs to be much broader in humanitarian crises in order to cover public health and training, as well as to help meet the basic needs of the people affected and assist with grief and loss.


The question a UK-based psychiatrist may pose to themselves is "what I can do in this setting of such chaos and need?" In this module I hope to provide answers to this question, based on evidence and good practice.'

© 2021 Royal College of Psychiatrists