Speeches

Speech by Mr Tim O’Malley, TD, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, at the launch of the new format of the Irish Journal of Psychology

I am delighted to be here with you today to launch the new format of the Irish Journal of Psychology and wish to extend a warm welcome to each and every one of you. .

I know that the Journal has been published for many years and that this afternoon’s launch is to mark the fact that the Journal has a new format and a new Editorship under Dr Barbara Dooley and Dr Eilis Hennessy of UCD. I would like to compliment Dr Dooley, Dr Hennessy and all involved in the Journal on the work undertaken.

I am particularly pleased to note that the first issue of the Journal in the new format is dealing specifically with health psychology.

Numbers and Education

The upgrading of this journal reflects the emergence of a vibrant and expanding profession here in Ireland. The growth in demand for psychological services in recent years has been a significant driving force in the development of those services and I am pleased to say that the profession and the Psychological Society of Ireland have risen to the challenges posed.

Improving staffing levels has been a key priority for the health service and a growth in the numbers of professionals employed throughout the system has been experienced. The numbers of psychology professionals has steadily increased since 1999 with an overall growth rate of just over 80% at end 2005.

The strong growth rates at the higher grades of senior (126%) and principal (529%) over the same period demonstrates the commitment to building a strong management structure within psychological services and I am glad to say that employers, in expanding the structure, have had access to highly qualified professionals from both Ireland and abroad.

A robust human resource strategy is essential to delivering the services the public demands. Overseas recruitment has featured strongly in efforts to adequately resource psychology services and I would like to acknowledge the significant role played by the PSI in this regard. The advice and support provided by the Society to the Department in assessing non-national psychology qualifications for employment in the public health service has been invaluable.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the PSI members and staff who have worked with the Department in recent years to develop the system and to acknowledge that the professional manner in which the PSI have approached this task has helped ensure that public health sector employers are confident of the educational standards of all psychology professionals.

It is interesting to see that the numbers applying for validation for most of the years since 2001 have continued at the high level set in 2001 and it looks as though this trend will continue into 2006.

Notwithstanding the strong trend in overseas recruitment the Department has, over recent years, sought to improve the domestic supply of clinical psychology professionals with the support and assistance of psychology professionals, public health sector management and the education sector.

Again the PSI helped to facilitate this strategy through the availability in recent years of the post graduate diploma in clinical psychology. Also I would like to say that the establishment of two new post graduate clinical psychology courses in the National University of Ireland Galway and University of Limerick funded largely by the public health system will help to:

  • ensure the continuity of supply of high quality graduates for the public health sector,
  • allow more choice locally for psychology graduates and
  • facilitate a strong research and academic culture in clinical psychology throughout the country.

I am confident that the progress achieved so far in terms of the supply initiatives will continue to gather momentum into the future providing the citizens of this country with a psychology service adequate to meet their needs.

Statutory Registration of Health and Social Care Professionals

As many of you here today will be aware, one of the most significant issues affecting the psychology profession in recent years is the enactment of the Health and Social Care Professionals Act.

The Health and Social Care Professionals Act provides for the establishment of a system of statutory registration for health and social care professionals, including psychologists.

We need to ensure the delivery of the best possible service to patients and service users. This was a primary concern when developing the system of statutory registration for health and social care professionals in Ireland.

We are living in an age where we enjoy more personal control with regard to our own health as individuals. We have more choice in healthcare than previous generations.

As users of professional services we need to be assured that service providers meet accepted standards. We need to know that there is a proper forum to bring justified complaints that will deal fairly with those complaints.

The system of registration provided for in the Health and Social Care Professionals Act allows for investigation of any allegations of incompetence or misconduct and for the taking of disciplinary action.

It also provides a mechanism whereby practitioners compromised by ill-health or addiction can be appropriately dealt with.

The PSI has been involved in the work undertaken to date to establish this system of statutory registration and I would like to thank all concerned for their input and assistance in advancing the process to its present stage.

I believe that the introduction of statutory registration will be a worthwhile initiative, which will further enhance the profession of psychology in the future and I look forward to your continued involvement.

The current position is that the Health and Social Care Professionals Act was passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas at the end of last year and the Department is currently working on the implementation of the legislation.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the system of statutory registration, I will briefly explain the provisions of the legislation.

The regulatory structure set out in the Health and Social Care Professionals Act comprises a registration board for each of the professions to be registered, a Health and Social Care Professionals Council with overall responsibility for the regulatory system and a committee structure to deal with disciplinary matters.

The Health and Social Care Professionals Council will, through appropriate co-ordination and oversight, ensure the consistency and coherence of the system as a whole and will promote uniformity of practice among registration boards.

As psychologists are one of the twelve professions to be registered from the outset, the legislation provides for the establishment of a Psychologists Registration Board which will comprise 13 members. Six members of the registration board will be from the psychology profession while the remaining seven members will be from outside the profession.

While the Health and Social Care Professionals Act sets out the parameters within which the system of statutory registration will operate, much of the detail on the operation of the system will be a matter for the Health and Social Care Professionals Council and each registration board, including the Psychologists Registration Board, when established.

For example, the functions of a registration board include the establishment and maintenance of a register of members of the profession. Each registration board will decide on approved qualifications, that is, the qualifications that the registration board believe attest to the standard of proficiency required for registration. The Act also contains transitional arrangements for the registration of existing practitioners. This is more commonly known as ‘grand-parenting’.

I would like to once again thank the Society for its engagement in regard to the Health and Social Care Professionals Act and I would like to convey the Department’s appreciation for the work undertaken by its members in considering the issues and in progressing the legislation overall.

Now that the legislation has been signed into law by the President, the Department is working on the implementation of the legislation.

While I would not like to pre-empt any decision the Tánaiste may make in this regard, it is likely that the first step in the implementation of the legislation is the appointment of the chairperson, followed by the appointment of other members of the Health and Social Care Professionals Council and then the members of each of the registration boards.

It is difficult to predict a timeframe for the implementation of the Act but I imagine it will take the best part of this year to appoint the members of the Council and then work will begin on appointing members of each registration board. Again, I would not like to pre-empt any decision the Tánaiste might make but I imagine she will be in touch with the PSI when making appointments to the Health and Social Care Professionals Council and the Psychologists Registration Board.

Conclusion

I would now like to wrap up by thanking you once again for giving me the opportunity to speak to you this afternoon and I wish the editors and team of the Irish Journal of Psychology and every one of you here this afternoon every success for the future.