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Allied Health Professionals in mental health

Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) are the third largest workforce in the NHS. 


AHPs provide system-wide care to assess, treat, diagnose and discharge patients across social care, housing, education, and independent and voluntary sectors. By adopting a holistic approach to healthcare, AHPs can help manage patients’ care throughout the life course from birth to palliative care. Their focus is on the prevention and improvement of health and wellbeing to maximise the potential for individuals to live full and active lives. 

AHPs working in mental health services make a unique contribution to mental health services in the following ways:

  • specialist early intervention to users of services and their families and carers, makes sure patients get the right support and care at the right time
  • as champions of physical and mental health they link across care pathways and can therefore provide a strategic overview for commissioning activities
  • mental health services provide AHPs with the settings and opportunity to maximise their skills and work at the top of their competencies and skills.

Allied Health Professionals in Mental Health, Learning Disability and Autism Settings, A Toolkit for Employer Organisations

HEE has published a comprehensive toolkit for employer organisations, in order to demonstrate how Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) can contribute to the care and treatment of autistic people, people with mental health needs and people with a learning disability. 

The toolkit is primarily aimed at commissioning organisations, mental health, learning disability and autism service leads, Integrated Care Systems (ICS) workforce planners and any senior leaders who are involved in workforce development.

It is the aim of the toolkit to inspire workforce planners to create innovative solutions to the workforce challenges they face by expanding and developing their AHP workforce, for the benefit of patients, service users, families, and carers.

The toolkit contains an introduction to AHPs, information on the role AHPs can play in the care and treatment across mental health, learning disability and autism settings, information on career development pathways for AHPs as well as useful films where the viewer can watch and hear AHPs describe the many different roles they play. 

Access the AHPs in Mental Health, Learning Disability and Autism Toolkit. View an accessible Microsoft Word version of the toolkit see the related document section below.

If you have any queries, please contact mentalhealth@hee.nhs.uk.

AHP's roles in mental health

There are several senior multi-professional roles open to AHPs, linked to the Mental Health Act 1983. However, there is limited take up of opportunities available across the professions.

The professions listed below are recognised as AHPs and those * in a mental health setting:

  1. Art Therapists*
  2. Drama therapists*
  3. Music therapists*
  4. Chiropodists/podiatrists
  5. Dietitians*
  6. Occupational therapists*
  7. Operating Department Practitioners
  8. Orthoptists
  9. Osteopaths
  10. Paramedics*
  11. Physiotherapists*
  12. Prosthetists and Orthotists
  13. Radiographers
  14. Speech and language therapists*

AHPs offer in mental health settings explained

This infographic resource demonstrates to employers and workforce planners how AHPs, which are the third-largest workforce in the NHS, can make a unique contribution to mental health services. It also explains how AHPs can be deployed into mental health settings to lead health promotion, provide early intervention, deliver expert rehabilitation, tackle health inequalities and support recovery.

The infographic, co-designed with the AHP Mental Health and Learning Disability Observatory, shows how patients, service users and families can benefit from the holistic AHP support for their health and care needs.

The resource explaining the AHP offer in learning disability settings will launch in the coming months. If you require the infographic in an alternative format, visit the AHP offer in mental health webpage.

AHP mental health career films

These films showcase AHPs' valuable contribution to mental health: Eshmit Kaur, DramatherapistJed Jerwood, Art PsychotherapistJess Rann, DieticianMatondo Manzeninga, ParamedicDonvé Thompson-Boy, Occupational Therapist and Jon Booth, Music Therapist.

Guide and films: AHP student placements in mental health and learning disability settings

HEE has published a guide and films highlighting the benefits and opportunities of practice-based learning through placements in mental health and learning disability settings for Allied Health Professions (AHP) students, focusing on the professions most common in these settings.

The ideas and examples show how placements have been developed in these settings and highlight the benefits to students, Higher Education Institutions and placement providers. Ultimately, these placements offer the most benefit to patients, service users and families who receive holistic support for their health and care needs by the different AHPs. 

The guide and films can be viewed and downloaded from the HEE AHP webpage.