I got involved in the early days of the EFPT by accident. I was elected as a regional representative from the North of England to the Royal College of Psychiatrists Trainees Committee in 1993. At my first meeting, elections were held for various bodies, one of which was for the European Forum for Psychiatric Trainees as the previous representatives had left the committee. When no-one else expressed any interest I put my name forward and was elected unopposed! This really demonstrated the ambivalence that the UK had towards the EFPT in the early days: I was the first UK citizen to represent the UK at the EPFT!
I attended my first forum in April 1994 in Cork, Ireland, the second formal meeting of the organisation. This meeting was preoccupied with the constitution of the organisation – who could attend and so on. The forum agreed to seek representation from representative organisations of psychiatric trainees in European countries and to promote the development of those organisations. The annual meeting would aim to produce consensus statements on training issues and to promote the views of trainees to relevant international bodies.
I attended subsequent forum meetings in Copenhagen (1995), Lisbon (1996) and Athens (1997) by which time I had become the Chair of the UK Psychiatric Trainees Committee. Each forum had its own character, shaped by the host country and their trainees. With English being the language of the forum, it often felt like the UK delegates were there to act as mediators to resolve linguistic conflicts and ensure statements stated precisely what was intended. The challenge in the early years was to get the organisation on a sound financial footing and to ensure continuity of representation from countries with fragile trainee organisations. Keeping communication going was tougher in the days before e-mail and social media!
Representing your country at the EFPT represents an unrivalled opportunity to get an international perspective on medical training and many delegates over the years have gone onto leadership positions in psychiatry in their own countries.
Dr Lenny Cornwall