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29 June marks the National Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) Day. You'd be forgiven for not being familiar with their contribution - why not read more about the important role they play.

So what is an AMHP?

At Portsmouth City Council an Approved Mental Health Professional is a qualified Social Worker with mental health experience. They take further training to become an AMHP, and carry out assessments under the Mental Health Act.  The council has to make sure there are enough AMHPs available - they're on call to respond to requests made for an assessment 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. AMHPs can also be qualified Mental Health Nurses, Occupational Therapists and Psychologists.

Why might I not have heard of them before?

Referring someone for an assessment is not a decision taken lightly. An assessment under the Mental Health Act only occurs when all other avenues to support people with a mental health issue have been exhausted. An assessment takes place when a person is mentally unwell and presents a risk to themselves or others, and one of the outcomes might be that they may need to be taken to hospital for their own health and safety or for the protection of others.  

Referrals come from a variety of places - the police, Queen Alexandra Hospital, Community Mental Health teams, GP's, Older Persons Mental Health, as well as close relatives of service users who believe their relative should be in hospital.

Who else is involved?

As you might expect, teamwork is an essential part of a process like this. The AMHP coordinates the response, and everyone involved is guided by the Mental Health Act and Codes of Practice. Two doctors, including one psychiatrist, need to be involved with the assessment. The person being assessed is interviewed and a decision made in partnership with them (if possible) about what should happen in order to support them. These assessments can be complex and involve a lot of people: the AMHP will work with police officers, the ambulance service, doctors , relatives, magistrates, as well as local authority teams like housing or children's services. The average time taken to complete an assessment is between 4-6 hours.  An assessment can be completed on a person of any age.

How many are AMHPs are there in Portsmouth?

Portsmouth City Council has a stand-alone AMHP team of nine people. The team work a shift pattern that includes days and nights - and they can often be found haunting the offices at 3am!

Get a flavour for our work in 'a day in the life of an AMHP'.

If you have any questions, would like to find out more about our work or if you are interested in looking at becoming an AMHP - get in touch! The team would love to hear from you - drop them a line at amhpteam@portsmouthcc.gov.uk