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Fundamental principles of equality, diversion, and inclusion must ‘permeate practice’

By James Fogarty - 26th May 2024

Fundamental principles

The principal themes of the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland Spring Conference 2024 were equality, diversity, and inclusion – described as fundamental principles which must “permeate and dictate practice”.

Dr Lorcan Martin

Welcoming members to the Mullingar Park Hotel, Co Westmeath, President of the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland Dr Lorcan Martin thanked the organisers for their hard work in putting together the conference.

“Unfortunately, we in the profession continue to face many challenges, uncertainty around the forthcoming mental health legislation, and utter bewilderment around the Assisted Decision-Making Capacity Act. The strains around recruitment, retention, and resources remain common themes,” he said.

“We continue to be asked to do more with less. The spectre of burnout has not faded away. I have raised these issues on many occasions but I am not going to dwell on them today. However, be assured that the College continues to work tirelessly to represent its members’ interests, the welfare of those we care for, and the training of future psychiatrists.”

The core function of the College was the training of specialist and skilled psychiatrists, he said, and trainees continue to take on an increasing role within the College, including the NCHD conference which has gone from strength to strength. The voices of trainees were respected and valued within the College, he added.

“The extraordinarily thorough examination of the Oireachtas report regarding the proposed changes to the Mental Health Act by one BST [Basic Specialist Training] trainee went on to form the basis of the College response to that horrendously unbalanced document,” Dr Martin said.

The College’s new diversity special interest group, which was launched at the conference, also originated with a trainee.

Dr Martin also congratulated the College on the 15th anniversary of its establishment as an independent body. He noted the College has grown significantly in this time – from five-to-19 members of staff.

Equality and inclusion cannot just be a theme for a conference or
lip service or a soundbite

“We have come a long way… membership has grown from 251 in 2009 to over 1,400 today,” Dr Martin said.

“There has been a 30 per cent increase in BST intake and ARPs [Annual Reviews of Progress] now take place three times a year. Exams successfully moved online during the Covid pandemic and have now moved back to in-person…. The College’s media profile has risen dramatically. We have contributed to multiple working groups, implementation groups, and Oireachtas sub-committees.”

The College’s contribution also played a major role in the development of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act, and over a hundred hours of member and staff time have been spent so far on Mental Health Act revisions, the meeting heard.

Dr Martin said the College had members from over 50 countries, representing over a quarter of the world’s nations.

“Our members speak over 30 languages as their mother tongue and over a quarter of our members are not from this island. Some 40 per cent of the recent intake of new trainees were from non-EU countries,” he said.

“There are some who would cast these remarkable figures in a negative light, seeing it yet again as proof that we depend on foreign graduates to run our health service. Indeed, there may be some merit to this argument and the College continues, as you know, to lobby and advocate in the areas of recruitment and retention. Today, we choose to see the positive.”

He added: “Equality and inclusion cannot just be a theme for a conference or lip service or a soundbite. They are fundamental principles which must permeate and dictate our practice, be it on a daily basis, or through special events highlighting relevant issues.”

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