Are some Accredited Registers better than others at handling complaints?

Here’s a question I want to think about. If you want a counsellor or a psychotherapist, the Professional Standards Authority accredits 11 different registers for you to choose from. Suppose something goes wrong and you need to make a complaint. Do any of those registers handle complaints better than others?

The Professional Standards Authority does ask people to share their experiences of Accredited  Registers, which comes with quite a big caveat.

Please note that this is NOT a complaints process. We do not investigate individuals’ complaints about regulators or registers and cannot resolve them for you, but you can help others by sharing your experience.

So, if you don’t  agree with the decision of an Accredited Register, who do you appeal the decision to? Basically, you can’t appeal it to anyone, which is hardly reassuring. The most the PSA can do is take your concerns into account when it’s time to revalidate the register. By comparison with the statutory regulators (the General Medical Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council etc) the PSA can appeal decisions to the High Court. Possibly this may be a distinction between accredited registers and regulators that hasn’t been discussed enough in debates over whether psychotherapy should be regulated.

I decided to find out whether any of the registers are getting more concerns raised than others. So, I sent the PSA a Freedom of Information Act request asking them to provide a list of how many concerns have been received for each Accredited Register over the last two years. I got this response.

To help interpret the data, I created a table of just those registers that are for counsellors and psychotherapists. These registers vary wildly in size, so I added a column listing the number of registrants each has on their books. If they were all doing equally well, one would expect them to have a number of concerns raised that’s roughly equal when adjusted for the size of the register.

psaconcerns

The Association of Christian Counsellors, the National Associaton of Play Therapists, COSCA and the Human Givens Institute all had no concerns sent to the PSA about their complaints handling.

Looking at these numbers, you’d expect the highest number of concerns to be for the BACP, simply because it’s by far the biggest register. But it’s not. The UKCP is only a quarter of the size of the BACP, but they had more concerns raised about them.

From November 2015 to January 2016 the UKCP had its accreditation suspended by the PSA, in part due to apparent mishandling of a sexual misconduct case. I emailed the PSA back to ask how many of these concerns were received before, during or after the suspension. They informed me that 8 of them were before, one of them during, and 2 of them afterwards. I hope this reduction in concerns means their complaint handling has improved since then. However, a quick glance at their complaints decisions page raises an eyebrow or two.

ukcpcomplaints

They haven’t sanctioned anyone since last November.

The result for the British Psychoanalytic Council also seems rather striking. They have less than a twentieth of the size of register compared to the BACP, but get almost as many concerns to the PSA. If we restrict it to only those concerns sent by complainants, the numbers are exactly the same.

Arguably the numbers for the Association of Child Psychotherapists could also be considered disproportionate to their size, but it’s only 3 concerns so we’re getting into pretty small numbers there.

Obviously this is a pretty rough-and-ready way to gauge the relative effectiveness of the different registers, but it does raise questions about whether or not they’re doing an equally good job.

 

 

 

 

Unsafe Spaces report discussed in Parliament

Today the Health Select Committee of the House of Commons met with the Professional Standards Authority to discuss their role in professional regulation. Sarah Wollaston MP and Ben Bradshaw MP both raised the issues described in our Unsafe Spaces report, which describes how one in four counsellors and psychotherapists struck off for misconduct simply carry on practising.

The meeting can be viewed online here. It’s quite a lengthy video, but all the discussion of counselling and psychotherapy is finished by 15:16 (there’s a break in the video due to a vote being called, with the meeting resuming at 15:07:15).

http://videoplayback.parliamentlive.tv/Player/Index/2524278c-8db8-4e7c-bdc9-0aa77e21217e?audioOnly=False&autoStart=False&statsEnabled=False

Something that’s of interest is that the PSA is working on a risk assessment model for which professions should be on a regulator and which should be on accredited registers. This model is described as based on three factors – the risk of the intervention, the context in which it takes place, and the vulnerability of the patient or service user. They would then go back to ministers with a recommendation as to whether or not a profession should be regulated.

Counselling and psychotherapy are mentioned as professions that the government may wish to look at as ones that could move from accredited registration to regulation. They also seem to be suggesting that arts therapists could move the other way, from regulation to accredited registration. The rationale given for this latter move (by Harry Cayton, Chief Executive of the PSA, at 15: 15:39) is that, “I’m only aware of one ever fitness to practise case involving an arts therapist, and that was for theft, or dishonesty rather than competence.” This seems to miss out the incredibly nasty case of Derek Gale, who was struck off by the HPC in 2009 for running a cult disguised as a therapy centre. Admittedly that was some years ago, but even so that leaves me concerned about the idea of arts therapists no longer being regulated.

That said, I’m pleased to hear that regulation of counselling and psychotherapy is not necessarily off the agenda, and I’ll look forward with interest to hearing about the PSA’s proposed risk assessment model.

Professional Standards Authority publishes reasons for recent UKCP suspension

From November 2015 to January 2016, the Professional Standards Authority briefly suspended the UK Council for Psychotherapy from their list of accredited registers. After the UKCP made a number of changes, the suspension was lifted. The PSA have now published their reasons for the suspension. When I commented about it online, various people suggested I was making a fuss about a “storm in a teacup”, and that this was simply a normal part of the reaccreditation process.

From reading the PSA’s review, it becomes clear that this was no storm in a teacup. It involves, among other things, the apparent mishandling of a sexual misconduct case.

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More on the UKCP suspension. UKCP implies it’s routine, PSA says it’s not

There’s been a few responses since I noticed a snippet on the Professional Standards Authority website, saying that the UK Council for Psychotherapy has had its accreditation suspended, pending further improvements that the PSA requires. The UKCP have issued a statement, which depicts the suspension as a relatively routine aspect of renewing their accreditation. However, enquiries made by a therapist raise question marks about just how routine it supposedly is.

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Professional Standards Authority suspends UK Council for Psychotherapy accreditation

I suddenly noticed something on the Professional Standards Authority’s list of Accredited Registers. The UK Council for Psychotherapy are still on the list, but if you click on their page, some eye-opening details are revealed. It seems the UKCP has had their accreditation suspended.

I couldn’t find any mention of this on the UKCP website, which surprised me somewhat.

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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.

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