An AMHP is a mental health worker who has received special training to provide help and give assistance to people who are being treated under the Mental Health Act.
Their role include helping to assess whether a person needs to be compulsorily detained (sectioned) as part of their treatment.
An approved mental health professional is also responsible for making sure that the human and civil rights of a person being detained are upheld and respected.
Approved mental health professionals can be social workers, psychiatric nurses, occupational therapists or clinical psychologists (but not medical doctors) who’ve had special training to be able to make decisions under the Mental Health Act legislation.
Along with doctors, AMHPs carry out Mental Health Act assessments and make decisions about whether or not someone needs to be detained in hospital. The assessing doctors can make recommendations, but it is up to the AMHP to make the final decision and ensure that the law is being applied correctly.
AMHPs have to comply with statutory requirements including attending 18 hours training per year, and go through a re-approval process every 5 years.
The role of an approved mental health professional
The AMHP role is a complex one. AMHPs act as independent professionals, rather than an agent of their employees. An AMHP cannot be told by their manager to 'go out and section' someone. All they can be asked to do is to conduct an assessment under the Mental Health Act (MHA) and reach their own conclusion based on all the evidence and the legal framework.
AMHPs have to undergo extensive specialist training and are expected to have an in-depth knowledge of law. The have responsibility for upholding the law when conducting assessments under the MHA.
They make sure that the rights of people are protected. The AMHP will look at all the information available on that person, not just the medical factors. This includes considering social and cultural circumstances, the possible risks and protective factors to try and reach a fair conclusion to the assessment which will balance the rights of the patient with their possible need for protection and treatment.
AMHPs use the Human Rights Act and other legislation, such as the Mental Capacity Act when making decisions and looking for alternatives to hospital admission.