Dr Hasanen Al-Taiar is Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust’s governor for the Specialised Services directorate and consultant forensic psychiatrist at the Kennet inpatient ward at the Littlemore Mental Health Centre.

“I have always been interested in this area, ever since I was a child,” he says. This somewhat startling comment makes sense when he explains his grandfather was a judge.

“I am interested in the link between mental health, behaviour and criminal responsibility. The questions: ‘Why did you do that?’ and ‘What made you do it?’”

These big questions have led Hasanen from his country of origin Iraq to practising as a doctor in the Middle East before moving to the UK in 2010 to specialise in psychiatry. Along the way he has picked up several professional posts that are aligned with his interests. He is the divisional vice chair for the South East for the Royal College of Psychiatrists, an Associate Oxford University Medical Education Fellow and the Secretary of the British Arab Psychiatric Association (BAPA.) In May 2019 he was elected as a governor for Oxford Health.

“I have been involved with the trust on many different levels since 2010 – first as a trainee, and then in clinical, managerial and consultant roles. I wanted to maximise this experience and  represent the forensic services. I’d like to contribute especially to the process of improving morale and retention in psychiatry,” he says.

“Recruitment and retention of staff is a challenge, not just locally but nationally and globally, and many factors impact on it, from cost of living to staff morale. We need a robust system that gives opportunities for mentoring, professional development and exposure to research, not just clinicians but nurses and support staff. That will lead to better patient care, too,” he says.

To that end he is involved in various educational committees at the Royal College of Psychiatrists as well as in internal mentoring programmes. He also delivers training in forensic aspects of psychiatry, such as risk assessment of violence, both nationally and internationally.

During the COVID-19 pandemic Hasanen has been focused on clinical work at his ward in Littlemore. Although the trust as a whole has embraced telemedicine, at forensic wards most care is face-to-face.

“We wear PPE, gloves, apron and face masks, and although we are not used to it, I think it is more difficult for the patients,” he says. “They can’t recognise the full facial expressions and that can impair understanding because so much of our communication is non-verbal. But patients have been understanding. They know that it is for their protection.”

“But telemedicine is here to stay,” he believes. “It won’t replace face-to-face consultations; we’ll have a mixture of virtual clinics and face-to-face.”  He also believes in his discipline where one of the challenges is that patients may face a dual stigma: mental health condition and offending.

“Our aim is that people are treated, get better and can go back into the society. I believe in giving them a second chance.”

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