Dr John Hillery’s speech at the Eating Disorders Clinical Programme Launch
Dr John Hillery, President of the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland
24th of January 2018
The Scandinavian Public Health Specialist and epidemiologist Hans Rosling died in 2017. He spent his career fighting medical fallacies with facts. He stated that “the world is discussed in terms of feelings and ideologies rather than as an area of knowledge”. A brief perusal of the media reaffirms this observation. Neither Ireland, nor our health service discourse is immune.
Most of us who work in the frontline of the health service will have experience of the ‘post truth’ approach to our hard won expertise by someone whose expertise, if any, is far removed from clinical practice. Post-truth, the word of the year 2016, is an adjective relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. It maintains its strength in the international and national culture.
Thus the HSE is to be congratulated on persevering with the Clinical Programmes. They are a beacon of hope for clinicians and patients alike. They promise accessible evidence based care delivered uniformly across the country targeting specific conditions of concern. The involvement of the Postgraduate Training Bodies in delineating best practice, rather than possible practice, is a display of much needed bravery by leaders in the HSE.
In my own College there have been questions about the morality of financing specific programmes when the general funding for mental health services remains behind that of other first world countries; when the aims of the decade old national policy on mental health, A Vision for Change, remain unmet and when we find it difficult to attract or retain young clinicians to train or work as specialists in our mental health services.
I no longer have these doubts as I believe that evidence based programmes will draw funds, will go towards meeting the aims of A Vision for Change and will attract high quality graduates in medicine and all other clinical professions to work in our health services. The evidence will speak and advocate more strongly than emotive shroud waving. It has to as the emotive shroud waving hasn’t worked for patients.
The College of Psychiatrists of Ireland is the sole body recognised by the Medical Council for training of doctors to be specialists in Psychiatry and the sole body recognised to ensure the continued competence of specialists in Psychiatry throughout their working life. Most specialist Psychiatrists in Ireland are members of the College. We also have an active committee of service users and carers, Refocus, which plays an integral role in all College activities. Thus the passage of the Eating Disorders Clinical Programme through the College which involves the scrutiny and input of a Clinical Advisory Group of members with an interest in Eating Disorders; followed by all College members and the Refocus Group having an opportunity for input; followed by final sign off by the College Council is an exhaustive process but one that ensures the validity of the process as a guarantor of best practice.
Thus the College role is to ensure that all Clinical Care Programmes in Mental Health use internationally recognised best practice in supporting people with mental health problems. I believe that with full resourcing and implementation of this programme the HSE will ensure access to specialist expertise for people with eating disorders nationally.
I want to thank all College members who contributed their time and energy in the midst of heavy clinical workloads. I especially thank the members of the College’s Clinical Advisory Group and the leadership of my colleague Dr Caroline Maher who chaired the Clinical Advisory Group. I thank and congratulate the Clinical Lead, Dr Sara Mc Devitt, for her hard work and patience and for the final report and wish her well in the work to come. The College looks forward to working with her in making this programme a beacon of hope for patients with eating disorders as they strive towards recovery.