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Consultation on new education and training approval standards for approved mental health professionals

This consultation relates to the role of the approved mental health professional (AMHP).

Consultation on new education and training approval standards for approved mental health professionals

Published: 9 May 2022

This consultation relates to the role of the approved mental health professional (AMHP).

We are also consulting on the role of approved mental capacity professional (AMCP), the successor qualification to best interests assessors, which is being consulted on in the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC’s) consultation on Liberty Protection Safeguards.


In addition to setting and upholding the professional standards for all social workers in England, we approve training for certain advanced roles, and include these roles as annotations on our register. One of these areas is mental health, and we are now consulting on a new set of standards we will use to approve and reapprove existing courses leading to the specialist award of approved mental health professional (AMHP).

An AMHP is a qualified professional who has completed specialist mental health training. As a result, they are eligible to be approved by a local authority to carry out certain duties under the Mental Health Act 1983 and associated regulations. This means that they are responsible for coordinating the assessment and admission to hospital of a person who is being detained (‘sectioned’) under the Act.

AMHPs are essential to helping people get the right treatment at a critical and often very distressing time, and their decisions can have a huge impact on a person’s wellbeing. The specialist training they receive must equip them for this responsibility.

The standards that we are consulting on, like the standards that apply to qualifying social work education and training, set out our expectations for what courses need to do to be sure that those who qualify from them can practise as safe and effective AMHPs.

As well as approving new courses, we will also reapprove courses periodically to make sure that they continue to meet the standards. This is one of the ways in which we work on behalf of the public to set minimum standards, assure courses against them and support the effective training of professionals in advanced and high-risk roles.

Why are we introducing these standards?

To become an AMHP, you need to be registered in any of four professions:

  • social worker (registered with Social Work England)
  • a mental health or learning disability nurse (registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council)
  • occupational therapist or psychologist (registered with the Health and Care Professions Council).

The training for AMHPs is the same regardless of their profession of origin. To ensure consistency of oversight, Social Work England is named in the Mental Health (Approved Mental Health Professionals) (Approval) (England) Regulations 2008 as the responsible regulator for overseeing this training on behalf of all regulators in England. We have worked closely with our fellow regulators to make sure that our proposed standards work for all four eligible professions.

How we got here

When began to regulate the profession in 2019, we took on the standards used by our predecessor as social work regulator for England, the Health and Care Professions Council. We said that we would review these standards to make sure that they fit as well as possible with our own approach to assuring the public’s confidence in social work education and training.

We drew first from our education and training standards for qualifying social work education. This provided a basis for consistency and meant we could draw across areas that remain relevant.

To develop the draft standards for consultation, we talked to a range of people, including:

  • people with lived experience
  • social work practitioners and managers
  • NHS and local authority employers
  • universities and private course providers
  • our partner regulators, the Nursing and Midwifery Council and the Health and Care Professions Council

Ideas, experiences and expertise of the people we have initially engaged with have allowed us to develop the standards which we are now consulting on.

We are inviting feedback on these proposed standards and have set out a series of questions about specific aspects of them.

How to respond

Before responding to the consultation, we recommend you:

  • read through the above information, which gives the background to the education and training standards for AMHP qualifying courses; and
  • read the draft standards at the bottom of this page

Please remember that these standards do not apply to individual AMHPs. These standards are for the providers of AMHP training courses.

The consultation period is 12 weeks and will end at 12pm (midday (12pm) on Monday 1 August.

Complete the online survey

You can also respond by email to: [email protected]. Please use ’AMHP consultation‘ as the email title.

If you need any reasonable adjustments to help you respond, please contact us at [email protected].

Please note that if you are also interested in our proposed standards for qualifying courses for approved mental capacity professionals (AMCPs), you will need to respond separately.

View and respond to the AMCP consultation

Consultation events

We are also hosting consultation events on the following dates. Please note tickets to these events are limited:

  • Thursday 26 May, 2pm to 3.30pm
  • Wednesday 8 June, 6pm to 7.30pm
  • Monday 20 June, 2pm to 3.30pm

Register for an event

Summary of consultation questions

Question 1

To what extent do you agree that the standards accurately reflect the requirements of the role of approved mental health professional (AMHP)?

Question 2

In relation to standard 1, to what extent do you think the language reflects what an applicant should be able to demonstrate upon admission to the course?

Question 3

In relation to standard 2.3, to what extent do you think this standard will successfully encourage course providers to show that they have considered the flexibility of training routes in their strategic planning?

Question 4

Is there anything in the standards that you don’t understand?

Question 5

Do you think that these standards could impact any persons with a protected characteristic? If so, is it positively, or negatively, and how? The Equality Act (2010) lists nine protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity.

Question 6

Do you have any other comments?

What happens next?

Once the consultation closes, we will analyse the responses received. We will then consider whether to make a final set of changes to reflect what people tell us. We expect to publish the new standards in Autumn 2022, subject to the outcome of this consultation.

We will also publish guidance to support course providers to meet the new education and training standards.

Until this process is complete, the current standards will continue to apply. We will give plenty of notice to course providers before any change comes into effect.

Our proposed standards

Purpose of this document

These are the standards which Social Work England will use to approve, monitor and reapprove courses qualifying a professional to act as an approved mental health professional (AMHP). Standards are the criteria by which we will assess whether a course should be approved to offer, or continue to offer, AMHP training.

You should read these standards alongside the following documents:

  • Social Work England’s explanatory guidance for these standards [note 1]
  • Schedule 2 of the Mental Health (Approved Mental Health Professionals) (Approval) (England) Regulations 2008 (referred to in this document as the 'AMHP Regulations'
  • Any additional Social Work England standards or guidance for relevant specialist practice [note 2]

[note 1] Once we have reviewed the feedback to this consultation, we will make final changes to these proposed standards and then publish the accompanying guidance to support them. 

[note 2] We are reviewing our regulatory support for specialist practice. We are considering publishing additional standards or guidance for specialists in practice, and if we do this will also be relevant to these standards.

Definitions and terms

Relevant qualified professionals

Any of the professionals listed as eligible for approval by a local authority in England to act on their behalf as an AMHP under Schedule 1 of the approved mental health professional regulations. They must be registered with the relevant regulatory body. Relevant qualified professionals are:

  • social workers (registered with Social Work England)
  • psychologists
  • mental health or learning disability nurses
  • occupational therapists (registered with the Health and Care Professions Council).

Relevant regulatory body

Any regulatory body mentioned in the regulations as being responsible for the professional registration of those eligible for approval as an AMHP.

  • Health and Care Professions Council
  • Nursing and Midwifery Council
  • Social Work England

People with lived experience

We recognise that different regulators and professions use different terms to describe the people that their professionals seek to support, together with their carers. For example, ‘patient’ or ’service user’. As these standards are the statutory responsibility of Social Work England, we have used the term ’people with lived experience’, which includes carers, to cover this.


We have used the term ‘student’ throughout this document. We use this to mean anyone learning, studying or training on a course approved by us for qualifying as an AMHP. The term includes trainees, apprentices and practitioners in training or work-based learning and learning and applies to all relevant qualified professionals regardless of their regulatory body.

Standard 1: Admissions

1. Education and training providers will:

1.1. Confirm on entry to the course that applicants have:

  • i. the potential to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the specialist standards;
  • ii. the potential to acquire and demonstrate the competences set out in the relevant legislation governing AMHP practice [note 3];
  • iii. the capability to meet the academic requirements of the course; and
  • iv. the capability to use information and communication technology (ICT) methods and techniques to achieve course outcomes.

1.2. Confirm that applicants are and remain fully registered with a relevant regulatory body.

1.3. Ensure that the admissions processes assess the suitability of applicants, including in relation to their conduct, health and character. This includes appropriate criminal conviction checks.

1.4. Ensure that applicants have suitable prior experience of the practical application of appropriate legislation and policy, specifically including but not limited to mental health, mental capacity and human rights legislation.

1.5. Ensure that applicants have a robust and advanced level of legal literacy in appropriate legislative and policy areas.

1.6. Ensure that employers, placement providers, people with lived experience of social work, and carers are involved in student admissions.

1.7. Ensure that there are equality, diversity and inclusion policies in relation to applicants and that they are implemented and monitored.

1.8. Ensure that the admissions process gives applicants the information they require to make an informed choice about whether to take up an offer of a place on a course. This will include information about the award level and professional qualification, course content, teaching modes, location of study, assessment methods, duration, and observation requirements including the expectations around arranging or securing placements.

[note 3] In the guidance we will set out that this means, principally, Schedule 2 of the Mental Health (Approved Mental Health Professionals) (Approval) Regulations 2008, but we will also include any changes to mental health legislation arising from the planned Mental Health Bill, including around the interface between mental health and mental capacity legislation.

Standard 2: Course governance, management and quality

2. Education and training providers will:

2.1. Ensure courses are supported by a management and governance plan that includes the roles, responsibilities and lines of accountability of individuals and governing groups in the delivery, resourcing and quality management of the course.

2.2. Ensure that regular and effective monitoring, evaluation and improvement systems are in place, and that these involve employers, people with lived experience including carers, and students.

2.3. Ensure that the number of students admitted is aligned to a clear strategy, which includes consideration of:

  • local and regional placement capacity; and
  • the availability of part-time or other flexible course arrangements to widen access wherever possible.

2.4. Ensure that the person with overall professional responsibility for the course is a relevant qualified professional with appropriate experience.
2.5. Ensure that there is adequate provision of appropriately qualified and experienced staff, with relevant specialist subject knowledge and expertise.
2.6. Ensure that educators are supported to maintain their knowledge and understanding in relation to professional practice.

Standard 3: Curriculum

3. Education and training providers will ensure that:

3.1. The views of employers, practitioners and people with lived experience of mental health services are incorporated into the design, ongoing development and review of the curriculum.

3.2. The content, structure and delivery of the training is in accordance with relevant guidance and frameworks and is designed to enable students to demonstrate that they have the necessary knowledge and skills.

3.3. The course reflects the philosophy, core values, skills and knowledge base as articulated in any relevant curriculum guidance.

3.4. The course is designed in accordance with equality, diversity and inclusion principles, human rights and legislative frameworks, the principles of anti-discriminatory, anti-oppressive or anti-racist practice, and the course content addresses the needs of groups who may be vulnerable to discrimination by the Mental Health Act assessment process.

3.5. Course content is routinely updated as a result of developments in legislation, research, government policy, and best practice.

3.6. The integration of theory and practice is central to the course.

3.7. Students understand how the standards of the student’s own professional regulator(s), and the specialist AMHP standards published on behalf of all the regulators by Social Work England, apply to their specialist practice.

3.8. The course is designed to enable students to demonstrate an evidence-informed approach to AMHP practice, underpinned by skills, knowledge and understanding in relation to research and evaluation.

Standard 4: Practice placements

4. Education and training providers will:

4.1. Ensure practice placements are integral to the course.

4.2. Ensure that the number, duration and range of practice placements is appropriate to support the delivery of the course and the achievement of the learning outcomes.

4.3. Ensure that students, practice placement providers and educators are fully prepared for each placement, which will include information about:

  • i. the learning outcomes to be met.
  • ii. the timing and duration of any placement experience.
  • iii. the records to be maintained.
  • iv. expectations of professional conduct.
  • v. assessment procedures including the implications of, and any action to be taken in the case of, failure to progress.
  • vi. communication and lines of responsibility.

4.4. Maintain clear collaborative arrangements for planning and communication with placement providers including a thorough and effective system for approving and monitoring all placements, in order jointly to ensure:

  • i. that practice placement settings provide a safe and supportive environment.
  • ii. that placement providers have equality, diversity and inclusion policies in place which will apply to students, and which they will implement and monitor.
  • iii. that there is an adequate number of appropriately qualified and experienced staff, with relevant specialist subject knowledge and expertise, at the practice placement setting.
  • iv. that practice placement providers support their placement staff to maintain their knowledge and understanding in relation to professional practice, including appropriate practice placement educator training.
  • v. that a range of learning and teaching methods that respect the rights and needs of people with lived experience of social work and colleagues must be in place throughout all practice placements.

Standard 5: Supporting students

5. Education and training providers will:

5.1. Ensure that students have access to resources to support their health and wellbeing including:

  • i. confidential counselling services;
  • ii. advice and support about careers including career pathways within mental health services; and
  • iii. occupational health services, where appropriate.

5.2. Ensure that students have access to a system of academic and pastoral student support for their progression, development, wellbeing and welfare.

5.3. Ensure that there is a thorough and effective process for ensuring the ongoing suitability of students’ conduct, character and health.

5.4. Make reasonable adjustments for students with a disability to enable them to progress through their course and meet the specialist standards, in accordance with relevant legislation.

5.5. Provide timely information to students about parts of the course where attendance is mandatory and have associated monitoring mechanisms in place.

5.6. Provide timely and meaningful feedback to students on their progression and performance in assessments.

5.7. Ensure there is an effective procedure in place for students to make academic appeals.

Standard 6: Assessments

6. Education and training providers will:

6.1. Ensure that the assessment strategy and design demonstrate that the assessments are robust, fair and consistent, and that those who successfully complete the course have developed the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the competencies set out in the relevant legislation and rules as set out in the guidance that accompanies these standards.

6.2. Ensure that professional aspects of practice are integral to assessments.

6.3. Use objective measures of student performance which ensure safe and effective practice as an AMHP.

6.4. Regularly monitor and evaluate assessment standards.

6.5. Clearly specify requirements for student progression and achievement within the course.

6.6. Clearly specify that any aegrotat award which may be made will not lead to eligibility to be approved as an AMHP.

6.7. Clearly specify the procedure for the right of appeal for students.

6.8. Clearly specify a process for the appointment of at least 1 external examiner who must be appropriately experienced and qualified and from the relevant part of an appropriate professional register.

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