11th August 2021
PQSW is very excited to welcome Matthew Simpson to the team as the lead of the Advanced Mental Health Practitioner programme, here are a few words from Matthew:
Sometimes opportunities come along that you just can’t ignore: the role of AMHP programme lead at Bournemouth University was just that opportunity for me. I started working in mental health services in 2001 as a support worker in an assertive outreach team, and within 9 months had been seconded by the NHS onto my Diploma in Social Work. I spent some time working in substance misuse services during my training, before gaining my first qualified Social Work post in a community mental health team in 2004.
My connection with Bournemouth University started in 2005, with the post-qualifying framework (as it was then named), including the Approved Social Worker award. Training to become an ASW during the lead-in to the 2007 amendments to the Mental Health Act was an unusual experience, as we were learning aspects of the law we knew would become obsolete in a matter of months. 14-years as an ASW then AMHP, including 9-years as an AMHP Lead and then AMHP manager, has given me a breadth of experience of AMHP practice; during this time I have developed an ever-increasing critical interest in the moral tensions generated in the role. Detaining someone under the Mental Health Act is never going to be an experience that fails to connect with an AMHP on a personal level, and many years of experience working with people in mental distress has shown me the limitations of, and potential harms caused by, our mental health system.
I have come to truly appreciate the role the AMHP plays in ensuring detention is used as a last resort. As Professor Sir Simon Wessely acknowledged in his introduction to the final report from the independent review of the Mental Health Act, professional fear and risk aversion is commonplace and adversely impacts the very people we entered this profession to help. Time and again I have found myself in situations where this fear has all too quickly resulted in the detention of a person in hospital, where on reflection other options might have been available. A Mental Health Act assessment has the scope to share risk decisions between three professionals, but equally fear can spread quickly and what might have been a protective measure can cease to be so. My interest in AMHP decision-making at the point of referral for a Mental Health Act assessment grew from these concerns, and in 2018 I enrolled on a PhD with Bournemouth University researching this very topic.
I have now joined Bournemouth University as the AMHP programme lead as I enter the final stages of my PhD, and during a time where the Mental Health Act is under review again. This time I will find myself teaching, rather than learning one Mental Health Act in the dawn of a new Act. Nevertheless, the role of the AMHP is so much more than a legal one, and I feel privileged to become part of the future of AMHP practice in this academic and educational role. Were I not already fortunate enough to be given this opportunity, I am also able to retain a part-time practice role as an AMHP with Wiltshire Council, remaining part of a team I have worked and researched with for the past 11-years and who share my interest in AMHP decision-making. Fusing education, research, and practice is a key Bournemouth University agenda, and I feel honoured to be involved in AMHP practice on all these levels.