A local authority was left with too few Approved Mental Health Professionals to deliver a safe service after making staff redundant and cutting pay levels, according to a Care Quality Commission report.
The regulator’s Monitoring the Mental Health Act 2012/13 report revealed that one local authority in rural England had halved its number of AMHPs – the group of mostly social workers that carries out Mental Health Act assessments. The drop in AMHPs was partly due to the council cutting AMHP pay enhancements and offering early redundancy packages, the CQC found.
The CQC report, which does not name the local authority, states:
“This had left too few AMHPs to provide a safe service. The remaining AMHPs were working long hours, being called in to provide emergency cover, and less able to provide a suitable service both in terms of assessment and for existing caseloads.
“On one Friday night the single AMHP on duty was called to assessments in three different places would have entailed a round trip of nearly 400 miles: a colleague had to come in from leave to help manage the situation.”
Prior to 2008, the Mental Health Act imposed a statutory duty on local authorities to make sure they “appoint sufficient numbers” of AMHPs. This wording was removed in the 2007 Mental Health Act. Instead, the 2007 Act Code of Practice states that councils must have arrangements in place to provide a 24-hour AMHP service.
The example is one of a series of concerns highlighted in the CQC’s annual report. Read our full coverage of the report here.