AMHPs could be regulated by CQC to tackle inconsistent monitoring by councils

Department of Health and CQC review to consider whether regulation will improve consistency in monitoring of approved mental health professionals

Approved mental health professional (AMHP) provision in England could be regulated by the Care Quality Commission in a bid to address inconsistencies in the way levels of services are monitored locally.

In a mental health crisis care report published today, the CQC said it had launched a review with the Department of Health to consider whether the regulation of AMHP services could address variations in the way local areas monitor AMHP provision.

AMHPs are the group of professionals that are qualified to coordinate Mental Health Act assessments. The majority of the AMHP workforce is made up of social workers, although nurses, psychologists or occupational therapists can take on the role.

AMHPs are warranted by local authorities. Councils have a duty under the Mental Health Act to ensure that there are enough AMHPs to provide a 24/7 service in their area.

No national monitoring

There has been no national monitoring of whether councils’ are meeting that duty. Meanwhile concerns have been growing in recent years over a shortage of AMHPs as anecdotal evidence suggests the workforce is ageing. A series of reports have also shown that pressures on the mental health crisis system are placing existing AMHPs under severe strain with the warning that many want to quit the role as a result.

Last year the CQC revealed that one local authority in a rural area had been left with too few AMHPs to deliver a safe service after making staff redundant and cutting pay levels. Research carried out by Community Care found that AMHP numbers had dropped at two-fifths of councils between 2012 and 2013.

Regulation possible

The CQC said that initial feedback from stakeholders in its review with the DH had revealed concerns over the lack of a standardised approach to monitor AMHP services.

“This contributes to the difficulty in producing a national picture on the provision of AMHPs. The next stage of the review will look at whether the regulation of AMHP services could improve guidance and standardise approaches to monitoring and data, collection, helping to drive improvements for those requiring AMHP services,” the CQC report said.

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