Tag: division of work

#MHNAUK meets in Leeds, and talks work and roles

MHNAUK members in Leeds
MHNAUK meets in Leeds

Mental Health Nurse Academics UK met yesterday in Leeds, hosted by John Baker and chaired by Joy Duxbury. Our discussions were wide-ranging: proposed changes to the composition of the English NHS workforce signalled by the introduction of associate nurses; the arrival, in England, of student fees for nursing degrees from 2017; safe staffing (see also this editorial in the Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing); plans for #NPNR2016; arrangements for a second student mental health nursing conference; the Shape of Caring; England’s Five Year Forward View for Mental Health; guidance for adult field nurses caring for people with mental health problems; this year’s Skellern Lecture and JPMHN Lifetime Achievement Award; the current call for papers for a themed care planning and coordination issue of the Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing (which Michael Coffey, Alan Simpson and I are co-editing); and the hot-off-the-press announcement of a Foundation of Nursing Studies-sponsored review into the role of mental health nurses.

In this post I’ll largely confine myself to some thoughts on the mental health workforce and on the place of nurses within this. Yesterday’s discussions in this area exercised MHNAUK members greatly. Proposed changes to the occupational mix to be found within mental health services, debates over nursing numbers and safe staffing, and new arrangments for the funding of education have the potential to trigger significant turbulence in an already-complex system of care. MHNAUK members rightly identified how the appearance of a new associate nurse role, sitting in between health care support workers and registered nurses, will trigger unrest. This is always the case when professional jurisdictions come under pressure (see here and here for papers I have co-written which expand on this point). In this current case, some registered nurses will see new associates as a threat to their hard-won jurisdiction. At a time when nurses are pressing for safe staffing, some are likely to argue that the introduction of associates will also open the door to role substitution and eventual reductions in numbers of registered nurses, thereby threatening both quality and safety.

Should associate nurses appear, we can be certain that plenty of inter-occupational jostling will take place as support workers, associates and registered nurses (amongst others) negotiate their relative positions and assert control over areas of work. In this regard, abstract descriptions of the tasks which new associates will (and will not) be permitted to carry out will provide only the most limited of guides. Differentiations between who does what will inevitably be hammered out in the workplace.

And what of the cross-UK implications for all of this, given that the Department of Health’s associate nurse announcement is for England only? To me it is unclear how new associates will be regulated, or how transferable their future qualifications might be should any wish to move to, say, Wales. Across the four countries of the UK important differences are appearing in the ways people are prepared for health care practice, and in the funding of this. Student nurses will pay fees in England from next year, but student nurses in Scotland will not and will continue to receive a bursary. Here in Wales (unless I’ve been asleep and have missed a piece of essential news), we will need to wait until after our forthcoming Assembly elections and the formation of a new Welsh Government for an announcement on future financial arrangments for nursing education. Perhaps we’ll hear more about the shape of the future Welsh NHS workforce then, too.


Prospects and challenges: revisited

In 1999 I wrote a paper for the journal Health and Social Care in the Community titled Joint working in community mental health: prospects and challenges. The back story is that the work for this article was mostly done during my first year of part-time study for an MA in Health and Social Policy, during my time working as a community mental health nurse in East London.

Frustratingly, I can’t find my original wordprocessed copy of this paper from which to create a green open access version for uploading to the Orca repository and for embedding a link to here. But not to worry. The abstract, at least, is a freebie:

This paper reviews the opportunities for, and the challenges facing, joint working in the provision of community mental health care. At a strategic level the organization of contemporary mental health services is marked by fragmentation, competing priorities, arbitrary divisions of responsibility, inconsistent policy, unpooled resources and unshared boundaries. At the level of localities and teams, these barriers to effective and efficient joint working reverberate within multi-disciplinary and multi-agency community mental health teams (CMHTs). To meet this challenge, CMHT operational policies need to include multiagency agreement on: professional roles and responsibilities; target client groups; eligibility criteria for access to services; client pathways to and from care; unified systems of case management; documentation and use of information technology; and management and accountability arrangements. At the level of practitioners, community mental health care is provided by professional groups who may have limited mutual understanding of differing values, education, roles and responsibilities. The prospect of overcoming these barriers in multidisciplinary CMHTs is afforded by increased opportunities for interprofessional ‘seepage’ and a sharing of complementary perspectives, and for joint education and training. This review suggests that policy-driven solutions to the challenges facing integrated community mental health care may be needed and concludes with an overview of the prospects for change contained in the previous UK government’s Green Paper, ‘Developing Partnerships in Mental Health’.

Fifteen years on the structural divisions remain. As with other areas, community mental health care continues to be funded and provided by a multiplicity of agencies, with ‘health care’ and ‘social care’ distinctions still very much in place. This year’s Report of the Independent Commission on Whole Person Care for the Labour Party and the King’s Fund’s work on integrated care are examples of recent initiatives aimed at closing these gaps. Labour’s Independent Commission recommends the creation of a new national body, Care England, bringing together NHS and local authority representatives at the highest level. Note, of course, that these proposals are for England only: these are ideas for health and social care in one part of a devolved UK.

In my article I drew attention to the problem of competing policies and priorities for NHS and local authority organisations, the lack of shared organisational boundaries, non-integrated information technology systems and separate pathways bringing service users into, through and out of the system. An illustrative example I gave was the parallel introduction, in the early 1990s, of the care programme approach (CPA) and care management. Here in Wales, with the introduction of the Mental Health (Wales) Measure there is now, at least, a single care and treatment plan (CTP) to be used with all people using secondary mental health services. But how many health and social care organisations in Wales and beyond have managed to integrate their information systems? This, I suspect, remains an idea for the future.

And then there are the distinctions, and the relationships, between the various occupational groups involved in community mental health care. In my Joint working paper I emphasised the differences in values, education and practice between (for example) nurses and social workers, and (perhaps rather glibly) suggested that the route to better interprofessional practice lay through clearer operational policies at team level. Getting mental health professionals to work differently together became, for a time at least, something of a policymakers’ priority in the years following my article’s appearance. Here I’m thinking of the idea of distributed responsibility, and ‘new ways of working’ more generally, of which more can be found in this post and in this analysis of recent mental health policy trends (for green open access papers associated with both these earlier posts, follow this link and this link).

Two other things strike me when I look back on this 1999 article and reflect on events in the time elapsing. First is how much I underemphasised, then, the importance and influence of the service user movement. Over 15 years much looks to have been gained on this front, and I detect improved opportunities now for people using services to be involved in decisions about their care. Services have oriented to the idea of promoting recovery, as opposed to responding solely to people’s difficulties and deficits. This all takes me neatly to COCAPP and Plan4Recovery, two current studies in which I am involved which are investigating these very things in everyday practice. Second, I realise how little I foresaw in the late 1990s the changes then about to happen in the organisation of community mental health teams. Not long after my paper appeared crisis resolution, early intervention, assertive outreach and primary care mental health teams sprung into being across large parts of the country. More recent evidence suggests a rolling back of some of these developments in a new era of austerity.

And what of the community mental health system’s opportunities and challenges for the fifteen years which lie ahead? Perhaps there’s space here for an informed, speculative, paper picking up on some of the threads identified in my Joint working piece and in this revisiting blog. But that’s for another day.

Work and roles in the ECT clinic

Last Wednesday (May 14th 2014 ) I had the chance to speak at the 4th National Association of Lead Nurses in ECT (NALNECT) conference. ECT (electro-convulsive therapy) has been around since the 1930s. It’s sparingly used, typically as a treatment for severe depression and only after other interventions have been tried and found wanting. The procedure involves the use of electricity to induce a seizure, and is conducted under anaesthesia. In the UK there are standards for ECT clinics, which place particular emphasis on quality and safety.

I’m no expert in ECT as a treatment, but I do know something about work and roles and it was this that I spoke about at the NALNECT event. I suggested that, rather like the physical holding of patients and other restrictive practices, ECT might be thought of as an example of the mental health system’s ‘dirty work’. It arouses strong views, and may well be an area about which there is more heat than light. A quick pre-conference search on Scopus turned up just 100 articles at the intersection of ‘ECT’ and ‘nursing’, with only 12 citations attributed to authors in the UK. Amongst these I found this paper investigating nurses’ attitudes, and this paper reporting findings from an observational study of the ECT workplace.

At Wednesday’s event I also talked about the ECT clinic’s unusually complex division of labour. Where else do mental health nurses, psychiatrists, anaesthetists, operating department practitioners and health care assistants routinely work together? The main item at the NALNECT conference was a debate on nurse-led clinics, though there seemed to be a number of different versions of what this might actually look like. Large parts of the discussion centred on the technical: who might apply which bit of the machinery, and who might press which button. I pointed out that tasks have forever moved around in the mental health system, and that a bigger question may not be the physical handling and usage of the ECT kit but nursing’s possession of sufficient knowledge to sustain claims to jurisdiction.

Identity and education

One of the things I discussed with Swansea University’s Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP) students today was how the emergence of a system of community mental health care opened up important new sites for the advancement of professional jurisdictional claims. For more on this idea of jurisdiction (which comes from the sociology of work) check out these earlier posts and embedded links to full-text articles here, here, here and here. It implies that in a dynamic division of labour professions engage in a constant jostling to cement and advance their positions, against the claims of others. The appearance of the AMHP role, fulfilled not just by social workers (as was the case with the old ASW role) but also by nurses, occupational therapists and psychologists, shows how the relationships between professions and tasks can change over time.

It is additionally the case that occupational groups are not homogeneous, but are internally segmented. This means that within a single profession differentiated elements can find themselves battling it out to control work and its underpinning knowledge, or to determine what counts as a necessary preparation for new entrants. And nursing, it appears to me, has plenty of form when it comes to internal divisions and disputes of this type.

With all this in mind, two papers caught my eye before heading off to teach this morning. Both are authored by Professor Brenda Happell. In her editorial in the current issue of the International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, titled Let the buyer beware! Loss of professional identity in mental health nursing, Brenda says (amongst other things):

Most of the time, I feel eternally grateful for my decision to pursue a career in mental health nursing […] At other times, I despair and wonder about the future of our profession, and the care of people experiencing mental health challenges.

I’ll quote some more, as the full text of the editorial is behind a subscription paywall. Writing about the Australian context in particular (this being a part of the world where nurses are trained as generalists rather than, as here in the UK, for a specific field of practice), Brenda adds:

Some of my concern can be traced back to the professional identity of mental health nursing. Identity is such an important part of being professional, and how we consider and present ourselves both individually and collectively.


Mental health nursing is becoming integrated into other content, in the absence of any evidence to suggest this is an effective means of education and plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest it isn’t. Nurses without any specialist qualifications,
and often without experience in mental health, are increasingly teaching the content, medical-surgical wards are being considered suitable places to gain clinical experience in mental health, and nurses who work in mental health for more than 5 minutes are referred to as mental health nurses, despite not having the appropriate qualifications.

That’s a dismal picture indeed. Through a ‘jurisdictions’ prism it might be thought of as a case of one segment within a highly differentiated profession claiming possession of sufficient knowledge to capture the work previously done by another, and to reframe what counts as adequate educational preparation.

Brenda and colleagues’ second paper has just appeared in early online form in Perspectives in Psychiatric Care. Majors in Mental Health Nursing: Issues of Sustainability and Commitment reports findings from an interview study involving representatives of Australian universities which had committed to (or actually implemented) mental health ‘majors’ within their comprehensive undergraduate nursing curricula, but which then discontinued them. Noting the lack of sustainability of embedded mental health nursing options within larger courses of generalist pre-registration education, Brenda and her team conclude:

[…] these experiences suggest that the current comprehensive nursing education programs are not well suited to promoting mental health nursing education as a positive future career destination. While such apparent attitudes prevail, the workforce problems in mental health nursing are likely to persist and indeed worsen.

A dismal conclusion again, linked once more in Brenda’s analysis to a shift away from a pre-qualification route to specialist mental health nursing practice.

Arguments for comprehensive, generalist, nurse education and thus for greater homogeneity in the workforce are frequently made here in the UK. When the Nursing and Midwifery Council opened a consultation on proposed new standards for pre-registration nursing in 2007 it specifically asked people to give a view on whether the branches (Mental Health, Adult, Children and Learning Disabilities) should remain. Mental Health Nurse Academics UK (drawing in part on Sarah Robinson and Peter Griffiths’ National Nursing Research Unit international comparison of approaches to specialist training at pre-registration level) submitted this in its 2008 response:

Experiences from other countries that have gone down the generalist pre-qualifying nursing education route show that this leads to a lack of skilled MHN workforce, difficulties in recruiting to post-registration MHN training and a reduction in the quality of care and service provision for those with MH problems […] In attempting to achieve some unitary, generalist view of nursing to fit with other countries, many of whom are envious of our branch specific pre-registration model, we run the very real and significant risk of simply repeating the errors of others for no gain.

We’ve had changes in formal interprofessional divisions of work (which takes me back to this morning’s AMHP students, notwithstanding that all in this class happened to be social workers). But we’ve hung on to branches (or ‘fields’, to use the current nomenclature) in UK nursing, and continue to prepare nurses to exclusively do mental health work from pre-registration level onwards. Six years on, Brenda Happell’s cautionary tales from Australia remind us of what might have been had decisions been made differently.

Standard professions?

The Times Higher Education reports this week on comments made by Vince Cable at an event hosted by the Sutton Trust. According to the THE, the Business Secretary:

[…] has criticised the “qualification inflation” that means entrants to “very standard” professions such as nursing require a degree.

In truth I find the THE‘s report a little disjointed, as elsewhere it quotes Vince Cable on a host of other matters including private schooling, support for postgraduate study and the promotion of social mobility.

But I understand enough of it to take issue with the Business Secretary’s side-swipe at graduate nurses. On what grounds might we distinguish ‘standard’ from ‘elite’ professions, or sustain the argument that only those joining the latter must of necessity possess degrees? We await an explanation. In the meantime, for a considered review of nursing education I refer readers to the report of the Willis Commission, which I wrote about on this blog last year. For a research-oriented post on the division of labour in health care (and particularly, on professions in the mental health field), try this post.

Doing crisis work

Here’s a new paper just accepted for publication, and about to appear in early online publication form. Titled ‘There’s a lot of tasks that can be done by any’: findings from an ethnographic study into work and organisation in UK community crisis resolution and home treatment services this will be appearing in Health: an Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine. Health is published by SAGE, and the copyright agreement I have signed allows me to deposit a post-peer review version of the accepted manuscript in my employing university’s digital repository. So, for a green open access version of this paper which is almost identical to the version which will appear in the journal, follow this link.

For a quick summary, here’s the abstract:

Across the United Kingdom (UK) large numbers of crisis resolution and home treatment (CRHT) services have been established with the aim of providing intensive, short-term, care to people who would otherwise be admitted to mental health hospital. Despite their widespread appearance little is known about how CRHT services are organised or how crisis work is done. This article arises from a larger ethnographic study (in which 34 interviews were conducted with practitioners, managers and service users) designed to generate data in these and related areas. Underpinned by systems thinking and sociological theories of the division of labour, the article examines the workplace contributions of mental health professionals and support staff. In a fast-moving environment the work which was done, how and by whom reflected wider professional jurisdictions and a recognisable patterning by organisational forces. System characteristics including variable shift-by-shift team composition and requirements to undertake assessments of new referrals whilst simultaneously providing home treatment shaped the work of some, but not all, professionals. Implications of these findings for larger systems of work are considered.

I’ll be adding this post, with its embedded link to the open access version of this article, to my ‘enduring posts’ page. I’ll group it with other posts and publications addressing the theme of ‘work and roles’.

Better late than never: thoughts on the mental health system and the DSM5

I drafted a post in May to coincide with the publication of the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM5). Having pitched it to a multi-author news and analysis site which didn’t bite, I then promptly forgot about it. Doing some blog housekeeping this morning I spotted the post squirrelled away in my draft folder, and decided to resurrect and refashion it for uploading here. Apologies in advance for repeating some messages and for linking to green open access papers addressed in other, previous, posts:

As was reported in the spring, the process of revising the DSM prompted fresh debate over the recognition, naming and causation of mental health conditions. For some biological psychiatrists the new DSM has been premature, arriving ahead of advances in understanding promised by genetic, brain imaging and other basic science research. Elsewhere, in a statement released in May members of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Clinical Psychology argued for an entire shift away from psychiatric classifications on the grounds that these lack validity.

So far as I am aware the DSM is not widely used in the UK. Here the day-to-day experiences of people using, and providing, mental health services may not be much affected by its revision. What the furore has been a reminder of, however, is the extent to which knowledge and practice in the mental health field remain open to contest. I have written before about the development of a system of mental health care in the UK, and how knowledge has been important in supporting professional claims to fulfil roles and to do certain types of work. This includes the work of deciding what should be done in response to people who are distressed, and whose thoughts, feelings and behaviour are perplexing and a cause for concern to others. In the case of the profession of psychiatry, its authority has been built on a biomedical knowledge base and on the development and application of associated treatments. Throughout its history, however, psychiatry has also been divided. Some of its sternest critics have come from within.

Historically, as the UK’s mental health system transformed into one in which more and more services were provided in the community new opportunities opened up for other professions, each claiming specific underpinning knowledge to inform their work. Modern mental health teams are staffed by psychiatrists, nurses, psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists and others. For each of these groups public statements and standards appeal to the distinct contributions their members make. In reality the boundaries between staff are often blurred, and the relationships between professions and their tasks are fluid.

All of this makes the UK’s mental health system an interprofessionally complex one. It is also only in the last 10 to 15 years that the challenge of improving mental health has been taken seriously by policymakers. But the problems to which policy action might be directed are not self-evident. They have to be named, and remedies proposed, implemented and defended. Recent policy for mental health has moved through phases. In the late 1990s ‘the problem’ was presented as one of community care failure. New types of team (for example, providing crisis resolution and home treatment, and assertive outreach) were set up as part of the solution. A controversial amendment to England and Wales’ Mental Health Act made provision for compulsory treatment in the community.

Later policy emphasised ‘new ways of working’. This explicitly encouraged professionals to do work previously done by others. Examples include nurses and other health workers taking on the role of approved mental health professional and therefore carrying out tasks previously done exclusively by social workers.

Now, in a context of austerity policy has strands concerned with the promotion of public mental health and wellbeing, and with enabling ‘recovery’ and personalised care for people using specialist services. As Simon Wesseley has argued, for most people using or working in the UK’s mental health system a more immediate and pressing concern than the publication of the DSM5 is protecting existing provision at a time of service retraction.

Nursing beleaguered?

Catching my eye earlier this week was an interview in The Guardian with Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) with a place on NHS England‘s National Commissioning Board. Under the header, ‘Nobody can say care is brilliant all the time’ the article opened with this understated quote:

‘It was very clear that nursing was getting a bit of a bad name and it felt like the profession was being quite beleaguered and criticised.’

Nursing certainly has been under siege. Responses to descriptions of poor care have included the three year Compassion in Practice strategy introduced by the CNO and her Director of Nursing counterpart at the Department of Health, Viv Bennett. It is in this document that the 6Cs are described:

It is also in this general context, but specifically following the publication of the Francis Report into Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, that the proposal was made that student nurses should spend a year doing health care assistant (HCA) work before beginning their training. This government plan has proven mightily controversial, and when announced provoked immediate broadsides from (amongst others) June Girvin (a nurse, and Pro Vice Chancellor at Oxford Brookes University) and Jackie Kirkham (a health visitor and researcher at Edinburgh University). Now it has drawn a closely referenced rebuttal from the Council of Deans of Health. Here is what the Council says in its conclusion:

The proposals for HCA experience prior to joining a pre-registration nursing programme are underpinned by a set of assumptions about nursing education and selection of prospective students that is deeply flawed. It paints a picture of students who have never had experience of caring and little interest in patient care, picked out for their grades by a group of academics in total isolation from staff working in clinical services. The message from current practices and the NMC Standards that govern them is that this mental picture needs to change. In particular, the assumption that students are not recruited for their values and that students do not have prior care experience are incorrect.

What about the nub of the proposal: that exposure to the clinical frontline as a HCA will create better nurses? The evidence here is equivocal at best. What care experience does seem to do is give prospective students exposure to the reality of working in healthcare and so it may reduce attrition from programmes. But there is also evidence that working as a HCA can socialise prospective students into poor practice and inhibit their development as nurses. Unless the evidence is looked at carefully, these proposals could therefore embed rather than challenge poor patient care. As the pilots of the proposals are developed, care must be taken both to recognise existing practice and carefully test assumptions against the evidence.

So, nursing practice and nursing education are in the spotlight, and the profession has responded. Senior members have asserted a set of fundamental values (the 6Cs), and in resisting the year-as-an-HCA idea have reminded people of the differences between what nurses and other health care workers do.

Nurses discomforted by this heightened scrutiny might consider their position alongside that of other public services workers. Social workers draw attention to the problem they face of being ‘damned if they do and damned if they don’t’. Then there are teachers, who fear the erosion of their professional standing as former servicemen and women prepare to enter the classroom without having to study for degrees. Back in the health service, some doctors (psychiatrists, in this instance) express concern over threats to their role and identity, whilst the profession as a whole is accused of greed.

We are therefore in good company. Other workers know what it is like to be told they have collectively fallen short, and understand how it feels to have their status undermined. Status-knocking sometimes happens because professional groups engage in ongoing division of labour skirmishes, as I have drawn attention to on this site before. But nursing’s current predicament, in which we are charged with having a ‘compassion deficit’ and sacrificing a commitment to care in the pursuit of academic credentials, is different.

Perhaps nurses have finally lost enough of the untouchable, ‘angel’, image (no bad thing, in my view) to now be viewed as ‘just’ another professional group in whom trust is conditional. We control entry to our profession, expect degrees from new entrants, have university departments and lead interprofessional teams and whole services within the NHS. In turn, we must expect to face questions when things go wrong, and to justify why we do practice and education in the ways that we do. For the record, I strongly favour system explanations for what happens in the health service (including its failures), see no evidence that student nurses no longer care and much prefer practitioners to be educated than not. But I also think we must expect, and should prepare for, more ‘bashing’ in the future.

Learning from the study of trajectories

Trajectories paperHere’s a post about research, which draws on the paper Complex caring trajectories in community mental health: contingencies, divisions of labor and care coordination which I authored with Davina Allen.

One of the things I’m interested in is the study of ‘trajectories’. With colleagues, the US sociologist Anselm Strauss wrote about these in the book Social Organization of Medical Work. Most people will be familiar with the idea of illnesses ‘running their course’. To this everyday concept Strauss and his collaborators added a whole lot more, introducing the term ‘trajectory’ to refer:

…not only to the physiological unfolding of a patient’s disease but to the total organization of work done over that course, plus the impact on those involved with that work and its organization (Strauss et al. 1985: 8).

Trajectories are dynamic and often unpredictable, not least because they involve people. They are also vulnerable to being tilted by what Strauss et al term ‘contingencies’. Contingencies can have origins in the health and illness experience. So, a trajectory can (for example) veer off in a new direction because of an acute exacerbation of a chronic illness. But trajectories can additionally be shaped by contingencies which have organisational origins. These can relate to the biographies of workers, and to features of the system such as the availability of resources.

Trajectories can be studied. In my PhD I borrowed the design and methods used by Davina Allen, Lesley Griffiths and Patricia Lyne in their study of stroke care, and used these to understand the trajectories of people using community mental health services. In each of two contrasting parts of Wales I recruited three people currently using secondary mental health services. Each became the starting point for a detailed, small-scale, trajectory case study. Over a period of months I followed each person’s unfolding experiences, and the organisation of work surrounding. Using snowball sampling I mapped the network of (paid and unpaid) people providing care to each, and interviewed those identified in this way about their work. I observed care planning meetings, home visits, and read each service user participant’s National Health Service (NHS) records.

Community Mental Health JournalIn the publication for Community Mental Health Journal to which this post relates, Davina and I drew on these data to show how trajectories unfolding in the mental health field are shaped. We offered instances of trajectories being tilted by mental health crises, but also by key professionals leaving their posts and by a lack of resources within the larger system.

We then used data to reveal actual divisions of labour, in a way which has not (to the best of my knowledge) been done before  in the mental health context. By mapping the networks of care surrounding each user participant we were able to learn about work being done by all sorts of people, including many who (I suspect) are rarely thought of as making significant contributions at all. We wrote about the work of community pharmacists, support workers, lay carers and indeed the work of service users themselves.

Having laid all this out we closed by pointing to the importance of what Strauss et al called ‘articulation work’. This is the work associated with the management of trajectories, through mechanisms such as care coordination. Mental health workers in the UK know all about this through things like the care programme approach (CPA).

The detail of this paper you can read for yourself, with the link at the top of this post taking you to our author’s copy of the manuscript as stored on Cardiff University’s ORCA repository. This, word-for-word, is the same as the version of the article which is currently in press here.

For those interested in the paper’s back story, just to note that when it came to selecting a journal I was keen not to submit to a nursing publication. I have no problem with nursing journals per se, but this ‘trajectories’ paper was (and is) aimed at a wider readership. Community Mental Health Journal is based in the US, and publishes papers on, well, community mental health. And that fitted well with the intended audience. This said, one of the anonymous reviewers of the submitted manuscript had things to say about the language used, reminding us that the journal to which we had submitted is read by mental health practitioners and academics and not, primarily, by sociologists. Attending to the review meant some rewriting to improve accessibility. I’ll leave future readers to judge for themselves whether we succeeded.

Nursing and the approved mental health professional role

AMHPFurther to my mentioning of a new paper on the development of the approved mental health professional (AMHP) role, and what this might mean for nurses, here now is a link to a full text open access version downloadable from ORCA.

In this article, my friend Michael Coffey and I discuss the implications of the changes made in 2007 to England and Wales’ Mental Health Act for the role of the mental health nurse. We were helped on our way by Jackie Neale, Michael’s colleague and Co-Director of the AMHP programme at Swansea University and by Dr Martin Webber, Reader in Social Work at the University of York, both of whom read and commented on an initial draft of our paper. Writing for this blog, Michael says:

Nurses for the first time can make applications for detention in hospital based upon their independent judgement and with regard to the opinions of their medical colleagues, based upon a social perspective and the principle of least restriction. This is as far as we know unprecedented in UK mental health law. In many ways this changes the provision of mental health nursing in ways that have as yet to be measured. These changes reflect similar moves internationally in mental health law.  There are huge challenges here though. Nurses are creeping into the territory of other professions who are not exactly welcoming them with open arms. Specific occupational knowledge and values are claimed by social workers who have traditionally fulfilled the approved role. These may be seen as jurisdictional claims and nurses have to show that they too can ‘pass’ as workers with a social perspective who are able to be independent of doctors. This is easier said than done and nurses have a chequered history in relation to occupational biomedical dominance. Added to this nursing is chiefly a biomedical task nowadays despite all the claims to being ‘holistic’ and being as focused on the social aspects of people as on anything else. Claims by nurses to be ‘psycho-social’ oriented or even ‘bio-psycho-social’ should be treated with some scepticism as many of these nurses subscribe to ideas of genetic determinism and are overly chemotherapy-focused. So can nurses actually juggle both a primarily biomedical focus and a social one to come to independent decisions in cases where the person might lose their liberty?

The backstory to this publication includes the fact that, with Jackie Neale, Michael runs Wales’ only AMHP programme. You can find out more about this post-qualification, postgraduate, course here. Our new article also comes out of Michael’s and my shared interest in mental health work and roles, and in thinking about (and researching) what nurses and others do. Another piece of behind-the-scenes detail is that Michael and I were once part of a team which came pretty close to getting a large grant to investigate AMHPs, and the experiences of people on the receiving end of their services.