Approved mental health professional numbers continue decline, Community Care finds

Community Care Freedom of Information request to local authorities highlights failure to bring more non-social workers into the AMHP workforce

Photo: Innovated Captures/Fotolia

The number of approved mental health rofessionals, the practitioners authorised to carry out Mental Health Act assessments, continues to shrink, research by Community Care shows.

A Freedom of Information request to local authorities also highlights a continuing failure to make the AMHP workforce more professionally diverse by bringing in more non social workers, one of the main reasons for the creation of the role to replace that of the approved social worker (ASW) in 2008.

Community Care received 102 responses from England’s 152 local authorities to its FOI. The number of warranted AMHPs – those qualified and warranted by local authorities to carry out Mental Health Act assessments among other duties – fell by 2.5%, from 2,174 at 1 April 2016 to 2,120 at 30 September 2017, across the 91 councils which supplied data for both dates.

This is a smaller decline than Community Care last reported – of 7% from 2013/14 to 2015/16 across 120 councils – and the latest FOI shows that the situation varies across the country.

From 1 April 2016 to 30 September 2017, 32 councils reported a rise in their number of warranted AMHPs, 42 reported a decrease and the numbers stayed the same in 17. In many cases the changes were minor.

Only one psychologist and nine occupational therapists across the 102 local authorities which responded to Community Care’s FOI are warranted AMHPs, and about 95% are social workers.

Community Care’s special report on AMHPs examines the FOI findings in more detail, including the failure to bring more nurses, occupational therapists and psychologists into the AMHP workforce, and possible solutions.

AMHPs: The picture today


Approved mental health professionals: pressures might never have been greater

Find out more about how recruitment and training problems are impacting the AMHP workforce.

Approved mental health professionals: the local picture

Read the experience of local authorities and how some are trying to alleviate the pressure.

Recruitment and retention

Reports sent by local authorities in response to Community Care’s FOI request also highlight the reasons behind the ongoing challenge of recruitment and retention of AMHPs, including:

  • The ageing AMHP workforce and retirements, leading to vacancies;
  • Decline in community mental health services, meaning other avenues of support are not fully explored and increasing the pressure on AMHPs;
  • Long working days for daytime workers which extend into the evenings due to lack of ambulance availability, delays in ensuring safe conveyancing, a lack of local beds, and more doctors becoming available to attend incidents later in the day;
  • AMHPs accumulating a large amount of time off in lieu as demand for assessments and the day-to-day operational challenges involved cannot be managed within core hours;
  • The loss of some AMHPs to become independent social workers, due to the amount of work available doing Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards assessments.

AMHP numbers – rises and falls

Community Care highlights the largest rises and biggest drops in AMHP numbers between 1 April 2016 and 30 September 2017 across the local authorities who responded to our Freedom of Information request.

Councils with the largest increases in warranted AMHPs

225% – Bedford

55% – Bexley

40% – Gateshead

31% – East Riding

27% – Middlesborough

Councils with the largest decreases in warranted AMHPs

41% – Somerset

40% – Barking

36% – Medway

33% – Southwark

31% – Cambridgeshire

5 Responses to Approved mental health professional numbers continue decline, Community Care finds

  1. Wendy Gee February 14, 2018 at 5:40 pm #

    I really like Community Care but why are articles like this always England based, I live in Wales and we have social workers too.

    • Carol Forde February 18, 2018 at 4:46 pm #

      Totally agree Wendy….Wales never seems to get any mention or reporting regarding AMHP’s and mental health in general!

  2. William Ian Collins February 15, 2018 at 9:46 am #

    The article fails to recognise the need to offer an insentive for people to do the AMHP job. There is no national AMHP agreement or scale of remuneration. Therefore, depending where and who your employer is you may get 10% of your salary or as in others nothing. The medics always seem to be remunerated which is unfair. AMHP’S need to politicise themselves as a body of professionals and not just accept that they have to do the role more frequently due to decreasing numbers on the rota.

    • Eboni February 15, 2018 at 7:19 pm #

      I see the AMHP role no more or less than the specialist Child Protection Social Worker role who do extremely hard work do long hours and do continue to do long hours and there has never been a 10% allowance allocated to the role.

      This applies to U.K. and Wales of course

      • James February 19, 2018 at 10:27 am #

        Eboni I disagree with this statement, I have worked in Child Protection previously and do not think the roles are comparable. AMHP’s have to go through further intense training while Child Protection worker’s do not (not all AMHP’s are Social Worker’s), and are individually liable through their assessments. Thus the problem with recruiting. Doctor’s are paid very well for their roles in MH assessments due to the understanding they (as a profession) would not engage with this work if they were not, however this is not the same for AMHP’s.