British Psychoanalytic Council complaints procedure hit by legal challenge

In recent weeks I’ve heard reports from more than one source that the complaints procedure for the British Psychoanalytic Council has run into difficulty. Details were scant, but suggested that the procedure had faced legal challenges from BPC registrants. There were also reports that this was causing a delay in hearing complaints.

I decided to email the BPC and ask them.

I received the following reply.

The BPC did receive some legal challenges, mainly on the basis that the existing procedure did not allow registrants to have legal representation.

This has led to our revising our Complaints Procedure, a process we aim to have completed within the next few months. In the meantime we are still hearing complaints under an Interim Procedure, in accordance with legal advice.

I then emailed back asking if I could see a copy of the Interim Procedure. They replied,

Following legal advice, we are in the process of updating our Complaints Procedure to better reflect the approach taken by other healthcare regulators.

The Interim Procedure is not available at present because it still needs to be finalised and adopted by the BPC. For this reason, I’m afraid a copy cannot currently be provided.

So they don’t currently have a complaints procedure in place?

The British Psychoanalytic Council is an Accredited Register with the Professional Standards Authority. This accreditation is partly based on them having a robust complaints procedure. However, these pieces of information cast doubt on whether they currently have a working complaints procedure at all, never mind a robust one. That’s very concerning.

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10 thoughts on “British Psychoanalytic Council complaints procedure hit by legal challenge

  1. Sounds to me like they are in the process of sorting it out quite responsibly after some legal difficulty with the previous process. Have you asked them what would actually happen if a complaint were made right now? You might find a perfectly sensible answer.

    We need more facts before we can see it as evidence of scandal.

  2. I am currently in the process of making a complaint (started 2014 June) and the complaint procedure that was available at the beginning (revised 2011) suddenly changed and I am now without any complaint procedure to fall back on.

    When I first handed in my complaint the 2011 versioin of the CP was used. The complaint was dismissed (“unfairly and unreasonably” as stated in the appeal findings) The Appeal Panel also stated that the process in which my complaint had been dismissed was defect.

    So, now I am allowed to have (an actual) second hearing but there suddenly is no complaint procedure that can guide me.

    Because I have no CP to guide me I have to go by what the BPC (who has previously dismissed my complaint unfairly) tell me to do; which is:

    – Hand my complaint over to a lawyer appointed by the BPC
    – the lawyer will then take over and present my complaint to the panel
    – I will be a witness and the lawyer may ask me to give evidence, s/he may not
    – If I refuse to take their lawyer my complaint may be quashed
    – When I asked if I could represent myself I was told I was not.

  3. The BPC seems to be doing its best to put together a revised procedure following a legal challenge. I agree with Transitional Object that this seems like a reasonable response. However, the issue does indicate one of the problems with the Accredited Voluntary Register system as it stands. You have a number of professional bodies regulating psychotherapy, all with different procedures and systems. A legal challenge to BPC may lead to a change in how it polices its members and that may be an improvement. However, there is no obligation for other AVRs to follow suit. Notwithstanding the fact that some therapists may be members of one or more AVRs, e.g. UKCP and BPC, the various organisations do little to standardise their procedures, share best practice, etc. This is complicated by the fact that some AVRs, such as UKCP, are made up of organisational members who have their own procedures for complaints. For example, many sex therapists are members of COSRT, which is an organisational member of UKCP, and has its own procedures. Overall it is a complex and unsatisfactory muddle that duplicates a lot of effort and wastes members subscriptions while only benefiting lawyers.The Professional Standards Agency has neither the resources nor the legal, professional and political muscle to enforce standardisation in this area.The public deserves a standardised complaints systems across the psychotherapy/psychology sector. But this is more likely to occur through gradual convergence via trial and error than a sector-wide overall.

    • I thought there was a single unified complaints process in the UKCP now, sextherapynow. Is that not working in practice?

  4. The public is NOT protected. The CP is being changed because registrants (therapists) have complained about not being allowed to have legal support in the hearing; a hearing that is supposed to look at their ethical standard and behaviour.
    A lawyer is not concerned about ethical matters, they are certainly not trained in psychoanalytic theories or psychotherapy/psychoanalysis in general.
    Lawyers, however, are good at manipulating the truth and intimidating vulnerable people and complainants are very vulnerable.

    Also, complainants will be appointed a lawyer by the BPC, the very organisation which the member complained against is a member of. How is that fair?

    If the complainant wants to represent herself (as is her right under the human rights act) her complaint may be dismissed

    So far, I am unable to see the improvement of protection of the public. As a matter f fact what I do see is less protection and a much more daunting experience of complaining and attending a hearing in which the complainant can be called as witness and torn apart.

    The essence of a hearing has completely disappeared.

  5. Also, the PSA will not act as supervision in any way. The only way the PSA will act is when it receives a complaint made against BPC. So, the distressed complainant has to make another complaint. This process can put off even the strong minded and not to forget that the therapist’s lawyer is already paid for by insurance so they can pull out all the stops to make sure the complaint will be dismissed although I am still not sure what good a lawyer is in this matter as it is purely about ethical matters.

    I was told by the BPC that the reason therapists want their lawyer in the hearing is because they are at risk of losing their livelihood.

    • Client1588.

      It sounds as though you are having a horrible time and my heart goes out to you.

      I agree that the processes have become overly legalistic. They should not be set up as pseudo-courts at all in my view. This work is far too subtle and intimate for that to be appropriate. Unfortunately, regulatory culture being what it is, that seems to be the way it is going and clients and practitioners alike are at risk because of it.

      I hope you get some peace as a result of it all.

      • TG
        Yes theorists, therapists, patients all have tried and are still trying to explain what happens within this space created by patient and therapist. so how on earth will a lawyer do justice to the dynamics (which most of the times will probably be a repeat/reflection of patient’s or therapist’s internal world) of a relation that took years to build up to the point of breakdown. It is outrageous.

      • Sorry, I meant “TO”.

  6. Client1588, feel like giving us an update? What has happened to your complaint?

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