Higher Specialist Work in Mental Health Services (PGCert)

The aim of the programme is to enable mental health practitioners to meet the requirements of the regulator and qualify for approval as an Approved Mental Health Professional by their employing authority.

The programme is founded on a flourishing partnership between the Department of Social Work and Social Care and nineteen local authorities (and their partner trusts) across England. The programmes have a record of innovation – for example, in recruiting nurses and occupational therapists onto AMHP training – and have been consistently highly evaluated both by course participants and managers within the partner agencies and by successive accrediting bodies.

The programme is characterised by a genuinely equal partnership with partner agencies that are fully involved in the processes of selection, programme delivery and assessment. Over the years a teaching team has been developed with extensive experience of delivery on AMHP and other mental health programmes throughout the country. The team is involved in research and service innovation within the area, which is multi-disciplinary in its professional background and includes a number of practising AMHPs.  

The programme is run on a modular basis with different patterns of contact. 

Stage 1 (Preparation)

This stage consists of the following module:

  • Preparing for Approved Mental Health Professional Practice (20 credits)

There are five taught days between April and July plus support from a practice mentor assessor. Assessed work is completed in the context of your normal working, and is submitted at the end of September.

Stage 2 (AMHP Qualifying Training)

Stage 2 consists of:

  • Values, Assessment and Communication in Approved Mental Health Professional Practice (20 credits)
  • The Legislative Framework and Approved Mental Health Professional Practice (20 credits)
  • The Context of Approved Mental Health Professional Practice: Models and Perspectives (20 credits)

It takes place over an 21 week period (incorporating two weeks of annual leave) when candidates undertake a 42 day placement (within their employing authority but usually away from their normal workplace). During this period they will attend 24 taught days and have a further 10 days available after returning to their normal workplace after placement to complete any outstanding assessed work for those modules. 

Successful completion of Stage 2 qualifies you for the award of the Qualifying Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Specialist Work in Mental Health Services (Approved Mental Health Professional) and makes you eligible for appointment as an AMHP. 

Stage 3 (Mentoring and Assessing the work of Other Mental Health Professionals)

Stage 3 consists of the following module:

  • Mentoring and Assessing the Work of Other Mental Health Professionals (20 credits)

This module enables candidates to demonstrate competence in assisting other qualified Mental Health professionals to develop their practice through supervision, mentorship and assessment. 

This module is run over a period of 6-13 months depending on the needs of both the Stage 3 candidate and the Stage 1 or 2 candidate they are supporting. It has five taught days in total through the period plus support from a practice mentor assessor.

Assessment and awards

Assessment on all modules is by assessment of practice competence as detailed below. 

Successful completion of Stage 1 and Stage 2 qualifies candidates for the award of the Qualifying Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Specialist Work in Mental Health Services (Approved Mental Health Professional) and makes you eligible for appointment as an AMHP.

Successful completion of Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3 enables candidates to apply for the MA Advanced Practice in Higher Specialist Work in Mental Health Services (Approved Mental Health Professional).

Assessment of Practice Competence                                                                                         

All assessment within the programme involves assessment of work-based performance. Initial Assessment is by a Practice Mentor Assessor and the work is subsequently verified by assessment by two independent members of the Verification and Assessment Panel of the Partnership. Members of this panel also serve on the Board of Examiners for Post-Qualifying Programmes in the Department of Social Work and Social Care at the University of Birmingham. Training and Development Staff, Practice Mentor Assessors, Service Users and Carers and Service Managers are all represented on both the Panel and the Board of Examiners. 

Practice Mentor Assessors are normally expected to be registered practitioners in social work, nursing or occupational therapy or chartered psychologists with AMHP experience who are either accredited Practice Teachers, holders of PQ6 or the Enabling Others element of the former Specialist award in social work, or Stage 3 of the former Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Specialist Work in Mental Health Services (Approved Mental Health Professional).

At the core of the training is the modules taken on Stage 2 (AMHP Qualifying Training). Each is assessed by consideration of a portfolio based upon analyses of a minimum of three assessments for compulsory detention, within which they have taken a significant role. At least one of these case analyses must be supported by a report of direct observation of their practice and all three by a critical reflection of their own overall practice and a Practice Mentor Assessor’s report on their achievement of the competences associated with each module.

The assessment of each of these three modules is based upon demonstration of the 35 units of competence within The Mental Health (Approved Mental Health Professionals) (Approval) (England) Regulations 2008 which were laid before Parliament on 7th May 2008. 

Teaching and Learning Resources

Over the years a teaching team led by Ric Bowl has been developed which has extensive experience of teaching on AMHP and other mental health programmes throughout the country, which is involved in research and service innovation within the area, multi-disciplinary in its professional background and includes a number of currently practising AMHPs. The team includes University of Birmingham academics and Visiting Lecturers with expertise in core areas of the training.

Core contributors to the programme include: 

Ric Bowl (Director of Community Mental Health Programmes) is a registered social work practitioner and co-ordinator, core tutor and contributor to various sessions including those on civil liberties, social models of mental health, the history of mental health intervention and legislation. 

Alison Smith (registered social work practitioner with considerable Practice and AMHP training experience) has specialist interests in mental health, practice education and law.  

Matthew Bilbe, Alan Goss, Tamsin Waterhouse, Christine McPherson, David Palfreyman and Emma Weir (all registered social work practitioners and AMHPs with considerable training experience) are contributors to sessions on practice skill development and value exploration. 

Chris Cosgrave is a long term carer and coordinates the training on Carers Perspectives. 

Bob Plumb (former Mental Health Act Commissioner and experienced AMHP Trainer) is the principal contributor on legislation.

Alex Hamilton (Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist) is the principal contributor on psychiatry. 

Graham Stokes (Consultant Clinical Psychologist) is the principal contributor on mental health and older people. 

Ian Porritt and Dan Cosgrave are amongst the experts by experience who contribute to aspects of the programme. 

Recruitment and Selection

Applicants require at least 2 years post-qualifying experience in the mental health sector.

Applicants for Stage 1 of the programme must hold a recognised professional qualification in social work, nursing, occupational therapy or psychology. They must be a registered social worker, nurse, occupational therapist or chartered psychologist and be nominated by a local authority or other employer. 

Applicants need to demonstrate that they are already working at the level of responsibility and with the level of complexity appropriate for entry onto AMHP qualifying training. 

All candidates will receive support from both a Practice Mentor Assessor and from their Training and Development Officer. A learning agreement underpins that support. They will also receive all the support provided to Registered Students by the University of Birmingham as set out in the Student Charter 

Any special needs arising from disabilities, dyslexia etc. will be identified at application and arrangements between the University and agencies will be made for meeting those needs as appropriate. 

Entry to Stage 2 (AMHP Qualifying Training) will be contingent upon successful completion of Stage 1 and the employing authority’s agreement to provide suitable opportunities to demonstrate the required competences.  Completion of Stage 1 is designed to ensure that only those suitable and with appropriate mental health experience commence AMHP training. 

Further details 

Contact us at pqmentalhealth@contacts.bham.ac.uk for any further general information about the programme. 

Please note that we are not able to accept individual applications that have not been approved by your employing authority or trust as their involvement is necessary to ensure that appropriate practice opportunities and in-house support are available to you. For details about the local application process you will need to speak to the AMHP Training lead in your employing authority.