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Allied Health Professionals

Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) are the third largest workforce in the NHS. In the main, these are degree-level professions and professionally autonomous practitioners. At present, 13 of the 14 AHP professions are regulated by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

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.

There are good examples of innovative workforce options for AHPs in mental health services. However, these tend to be introduced in response to local issues with limited spread of good practice and innovation between organisations. The spread of innovation may have been hampered by a lack of national evidence available about the unique contribution of AHPs input in:

  • improving the individual experience of care
  • improving the health of populations
  • reducing the per capita cost of healthcare.

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*

Report from the New Roles Task and Finish Group 

The report above cites: 

  • the overall benefit to the system of AHPs working in enhanced roles
  • tools that can promote the contribution of AHPs to mental health services
  • a variety of case studies of new and innovative roles.