|The Masked AMHP's AMHP Warrant. Honest|
Members of the Masked AMHP Facebook Mental Health Forum quite often ask what is entailed in becoming an Approved Mental Health Professional. I also get a number of people emailing me asking about it. Here, then, are some guidelines about the process.
Who is eligible to become an AMHP?
In order to be eligible to train as an AMHP, you have to be a qualified professional. Eligible professionals are social workers, mental health nurses, occupational therapists and clinical psychologists. Professionals will need to have at least 2 years post-qualification experience in order to be considered for training.
The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) is responsible for approving training courses for AMHPs. They state:
The criteria for approving AMHP programmes are designed to equip individuals with the threshold skills necessary to engage in safe and effective AMHP practice. They set out the processes and procedures that education providers delivering AMHP training must have in place, and the knowledge, understanding and skills that an individual must have when they complete their AMHP training.
AMHP training courses are almost invariably provided by universities. They may take different forms, and be of different lengths, but will generally last for between 6 and 12 months. They may be part-time, or have a combination of part-time and full-time modules. A practice placement, during which trainees are placed with AMHPs and take part in Mental Health Act assessments, is an essential and integral part of the training process.
At present, there are 20 universities and training consortia providing a total of 32 different qualifying programmes. All the courses are at postgraduate level, and the successful candidate will be awarded a range of qualifications: from a Postgraduate Certificate to a Postgraduate Diploma up to a MA or MSc degree.
How do I get onto an AMHP course?
The Code of Practice, para14.35, states that local authorities “are responsible for ensuring that sufficient AMHPs are available to carry out their roles under the Act”. Your employing authority must therefore maintain an AMHP service that can fulfil their legal obligations. The local authority will therefore be responsible for paying the course fees and would have to authorise you to undertake the training. This would generally involve writing some sort of reflective piece relating to their experience and desire to train as an AMHP, as well as a formal interview involving the local authority and the academic lead of the course.
What if I don’t have a local authority prepared to give me the training?
I have to say that it is almost impossible for someone to train independently as an AMHP.
While nearly all courses will refuse to take an independent student, the course on which I teach did take such a student this year. They, of course, had to pay the full cost of the course out of their own pocket, and also pay for a placement with the local authority sending students to the course.
At the end of the course, unless the student was prepared to work for the local authority as an AMHP, they would not actually be approved, but would be given the necessary evidence to show a prospective employer that they have successfully completed the qualifying training.
What does the training entail?
I teach on one of these AMHP training courses, so I will describe in more detail this particular course. The course is based within the university School of Social Work.
The course is at post-graduate level, and successful candidates receive a Postgraduate Diploma and will also receive credits towards a Master’s degree.
There is an initial part-time period of occasional days in university from October to December, then a full time segment from February through to June. There is a month of intensive teaching of the law and practice relating to AMHP practice and mental health, then a two month placement period, during which the candidates are placed with AMHPs and have to shadow at least 6 MHA assessments during the course of the placement.
The AMHP trainees then have to produce a portfolio, which must include evidence supporting a range of competencies, which are stipulated in the HCPC guidance. These competencies cover seven broad areas of practice:
- autonomous practice
- informed decision making
- equality and diversity,
- collaborative working, and
- assessment and intervention.
There is also a Law Test, which consists of case studies covering a cross section of the sort of assessments that AMHPs are likely to encounter, with questions designed to elicit the AMHP’s knowledge of law and practice.
Phew! Then what?
This is not, however, the end of the process. The HCPC points out:
Successful completion of an approved programme only makes an individual eligible to be approved to act as an AMHP. Only those who have completed approved training and have been approved to act as an AMHP by a Local Social Services Authority in England may perform the functions of an AMHP.
This means that, having completed the course, the LA in which they will be practicing has a panel meeting, during which each candidate if formally approved. They will then be issued with a warrant.
In our local authority, the newly warranted AMHP is then expected to undertake three Mental Health Act Assessments, during which they will be shadowed by an experienced AMHP. They are then deemed to be fully competent to practice independently.