ASW role’s successor is shunned by other professionals

The role of approved mental health professional, which replaces that of approved social worker this month, has so far attracted little interest from other professions, Community Care has learned.

Professionals outside of social work will be able to carry out sectioning duties under the Mental Health Act 2007, which are currently the sole responsibility of ASWs..

Mental health powers

The 2007 Mental Health Act, which comes into effect this week, allows nurses, psychologists and occupational therapists to take on responsibilities, including authorising sections, formerly only held by approved social workers.

However, professional bodies say few outside social work have applied to become AMHPs. This calls into question the policy’s aim of improving the availability of authorised staff for emergency assessments, they said.

Patchy take up of role

Genevieve Smyth of the College of Occupational Therapists, part of the 29,000-member British Association of Occupational Therapists, said the interest from her profession in England and Wales varied.

“No one is obliged to take up the role, so the implementation will take place in a patchy, ad hoc way,” she said.

Ian Hewlett, mental health adviser at the Royal College of Nursing, was unaware of a “particular wave of enthusiasm” among mental health nurses to become AMHPs. “This is because people are still unclear about how the role will operate in practice,” he said.

Professor John Taylor, chair of the British Psychological Society’s mental health working party, said: “As far as I’m aware, there is little if any interest to date among professional psychologists in taking up the AMHP role. My sense is that most psychologists (in the NHS at least) would see the AMHP role as properly resting with social work colleagues on the whole as they bring a non-clinical and more socially grounded perspective that counter-balances and complements the clinical viewpoint of psychologists, psychiatrists and nurses.”

Smyth and Hewlett agreed that the take-up from professions outside social work would be driven by shortages of social workers in certain areas rather than the needs of patients.

GSCC traininig

Most AMHPs will be taken from the existing workforce of approved social workers, who can adopt the new title providing they have General Social Care Council-accredited training.

Jim Symington, of the National Institute for Mental Health in England, said social workers were “extremely well-prepared” to practise under the new legislation. However, the British Association of Social Workers denied this, describing the provision of training for some staff as “inconsistent”.

A Department of Health spokesperson said figures showing the number of applicants for the new role from different professions were not available.

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