First Suspension of UK Accredited Register by PSA
The belief of the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) that it is the quality mark for high standards in psychotherapy has taken a battering this week. Far from being the acme for quality in the profession, its accreditation has been suspended by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA), the public body that answers to Parliament for standards across a range of therapeutic professions. It took the keen eye of blogger Phil Dore at unsafespaces.com to alert the psychotherapy community to the suspension, the details of which have been available on the PSA’s website since 7 December 2015 following the decision of the PSA’s Accreditation Panel in November.
When news of the suspension broke online over the New Year holidays, UKCP members contacted the organisation with understandable concerns about what it might mean for their own training, accreditation and professional liability insurance. UKCP responded on 4 January with a statement that said it was “currently renewing the accreditation” of its register. This was an “annual process” and involved making “a small number of changes” to its complaints and conduct procedure. The “S” word was not mentioned. Everything, it appears, is business as usual.
Enquiries by sextherapybristol.net have confirmed that the suspension did result from UKCP’s annual review application. However, the PSA stated that UKCP’s suspension is “not routine” and added that this is the first time it has had to take the step of suspending a register’s accreditation. The decision is clearly extraordinary and UKCP has the dubious honour of being the first UK psychotherapy body since registration was introduced to have its accreditation suspended. The PSA would not comment on the statement issued by UKCP.
Rather than a matter of minor tweaks to the UKCP’s accreditation, the PSA’s concerns about the standards operating at UKCP were such that it was deemed not to meet two key standards in the PSA’s Standards for Accredited Registers:
- Standard 2: the organisation demonstrates that it is committed to protecting the public and promoting public confidence in the occupation it registers.
The PSA has not made public exactly how UKCP has fallen short. However, to meet this standard an organsiation need “to demonstrate that its purpose and directives are focused on public protection, that in carrying out its voluntary register functions public interest is paramount and that professional interests do not dominate or unintentionally subvert that interest”.
- Standard 5: the organisation demonstrates that it has the capacity to inspire confidence in its ability to manage the register effectively.
Factors the PSA will take into account in making a judgement on an organisation’s ability to meet this standard include its “leadership, its reputation within and outside its field, the skills and experience of those involved in its voluntary register functions, its operational efficiency and its openness”.
UKCP’s failure, for whatever reason, to meet these standards calls into qustion its fitness to perform its function. For UKCP to represent this as just a routine step in the annual accreditation process would appear to back-up some of the PSA’s concerns.
UKCP’s long-suffering members have been grumbling for years about various aspects of its management and functions. Concerns frequently expressed include: the gradual collapse of members’ morale and readiness to volunteer their time; a decline in the activity of member committees; a thin schedule of professional conferences and training; and a website that has frequently crashed and lost member data. For those who have expressed such misgivings over the years, it will come as no surprise that UKCP is the first accredited register to be suspended by the PSA pending improvement.
The accredited register regime established in the UK has come in for plenty of criticism for lacking bite. However, the PSA has for the first time suspended the accreditation of a registering body because it is not fully fit for purpose. Over the last few days many UKCP members have reasonably asked why the suspension was not communicated to members. In response to questions from sextherapybristol.net , the PSA responded as follows:
“The decision not to require UKCP to announce suspension was made based on the evidence reviewed by the Accreditation Panel. The Panel did not consider the concerns identified to be an immediate risk to public protection which required registrants to stop using our quality mark immediately. In general, the decision to require an Accredited Register to announce an outcome such as suspension is made on case by case basis and proportionate to risk.”
The PSA added that it will clarify this in its Accreditation Guide in due course.
While the PSA’s concerns are evidently serious enough to warrant UKCP’s suspension, it is some reassurance that its shortcomings do not, in the PSA’s view, represent a risk to the public. However, UKCP members still remain in the dark about what exactly has led to the suspension. As the relatively new PSA cuts its teeth on UKCP, it might consider requiring that a suspended accredited register inform its members of where it needs to make improvements. That would certainly prevent UKCP presenting a matter as extraordinary as suspension as just a routine part of the annual accreditation carousel.