By Charlotte Webster-
The number of approved mental health professionals (AMHPs) in England shrank by 3% from 2020-22, amid rising numbers of detentions and government plans to expand the workforce.
There are currently an estimated 3,800 practising AMHPs, down from 3,900 two years ago, Skills for Care said in its latest briefing on the professional group.
The sharp decline calls for a speedy increase in the supply of mental health professionals to enhance awareness of the various forms of mental health and propose ways to address them on a case-by-case basis, given the large number of people in the Uk suffering from serious mental health issues. Mental health issues are suffered by 1 in 4 people in the Uk but exist at varying levels in the population.
Its most devastating effects can be debilitating in children who are victims of serious misfortune including domestic violence, rejection form an absent parent,(and by others) sexual abuse, deep levels of low self-esteem, sorrow from having lost loved ones in their family, are some of the examples of situations that constitute mental health issues.
The consequences of mental health often accompany children into adulthood, where new unfortunate experiences can exacerbate a pre-existing level of mental health in a person. Mental health professionals
The figure – extrapolated from submissions from 125 of the relevant 148 local authorities – is the lowest since the workforce development body started publishing the dataset in 2018.
It comes with the number of detentions under the Mental Health Act 1983(MHA) – each of which requires an assessment by an AMHP – having risen by 4.5% from 2019-20 to 2020-21, according to NHS Digital figures.While Skills for Care estimated that there were currently 1,870 full-time equivalent (FTE) AMHPs in England, government plans to reform the MHA would require an additional 101 FTEs by 2028-29.
This is because it expects AMHPs to have expanded duties in relation to community treatment orders – which place requirements on patient’s treatment after leaving hospital – and new advance choice documents, which enable people to make decisions about their future treatment.
The plans are set out in the Draft Mental Health Bill, which is being scrutinised by a parliamentary committee, after which the government is likely to proceed with full legislation to reform the MHA.
The fall in the number of AMHPs nationally masked significant regional variations with modest growth in London, the North East and the West Midlands and falls elsewhere, reaching 9% in the Southeast and 7% in the Southwest.
The update also highlighted longer term concerns about the sustainability of the AMHP workforce, most of whom (79%) are employed by councils, with 17% in the NHS and 4% agency or freelance.
In 2020, 95% of AMHPs were social workers, with just 5% from the other three professions who are statutorily able to carry out the role: nurses, occupational therapists and psychologists.
Also, the workforce remains older than adult social workers in general, with 31% of council-employed AMHPs aged 55 or over – as in 2020 – compared with 23% of local authority adult social workers.
The pay premium that local authority AMHPs carry also seems to have fallen, from £3,500 in 2018 and £2,700 in 2020, to £2,00 in 2022. AMHPs had a median salary of £38,900 as of September 2021, compared with £36,900 for adult social workers in local authorities.
In terms of retention, Skills for Care estimated that 17% left their roles from 2020-21, with 12% leaving local authority practice altogether, 4% moving to a new role within the same authority and 2% changing authority.
Last year, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) found an extra £1.2m to train AMHPs in England to address workforce shortages.
In a foreword to the Skills for Care report, DHSC mental health social work lead Jason Brandon said this had made “a positive contribution to support additional candidates identified for AMHP training across 2021-22”.
Several partners have recently been collaborating with a view to improving the national shortage of mental health experts, including the AMHP Leads Network to implement the 2019 national workforce plan for AMHPs.
A number of measures to improve the recruitment and retention of AMHPs have been set, including for councils and their partners to have a clear plan for the number of AMHPs needed across adult mental health, children’s, learning disability and older people’s services.