By Stephen Martineau
Readers of Community Care will be familiar with both the widespread concern about mental health service provision, and ongoing talk of legislative changes.
The latter gained momentum in October with the appointment of the psychiatrist Simon Wessely as head of an independent review of the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA).
To highlight just a couple of statistics forming the backdrop to his review:
- Detentions under the MHA rose by 46% in the decade to 2016; it is suggested that this is in part due to resources in community services being stretched.
- Meanwhile, the number of approved mental health professionals (AMHPs), the practitioners who coordinate MHA assessments and decide if someone is to be detained, reportedly fell by 7% in the three years to 2016.
The AMHP role was originally proposed partly in response to shortages of its predecessors, approved social workers (ASWs). The move from ASW to AMHP in November 2008 meant that not only social workers but occupational therapists, chartered psychologists and mental health and learning disability nurses could now be approved by the local authority for the position.
But these groups have hardly been flocking to take up the role. In an estimate based on an informal survey of local authorities, Steve Chamberlain, chair of the AMHP Leads Network, suggested they constitute only 7-8% cent of the total AMHP body.
Why aren’t health professionals becoming AMHPs?
At King’s College London, we are examining the reasons for this low take-up by eligible health professionals. While we know a lot about the experiences of social worker AMHPs, there is very little research about these other groups.
Our study is commissioned by the Department of Health and our findings will feed into plans to introduce a national framework for AMHP certification, and a national register overseen by the proposed new regulatory agency, Social Work England.
If you are, or a colleague or friend is, a member of one of the eligible health professions (particularly if you are a non-AMHP nurse or psychologist), we are keen to talk to you about your experience, motivation and views in relation to the AMHP role.
We would also like to talk to other professionals working with people (adults) with mental health problems and their families (psychiatrists, other mental health service providers, advocates, police officers, paramedics and so on). The interview should take about 20 minutes and we are happy to talk to people over the phone.
We are now conducting an online survey of AMHP leads – and very much hope that this is completed across England. The study is funded by the NIHR Policy Research Programme, but the views expressed in this blog post are those of the author alone.
If you would like to take part in this research please go to the project webpage to find out all the groups we are hoping to interview. If you are an AMHP lead, the same page also has a link to an online survey we are conducting.
You can contact us via the webpage or email firstname.lastname@example.org