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Social workers

Social work is a regulated profession, with a protected title, which is regulated by the newly-established Social Work England.

There are approximately 4,200 social workers (3,100 work in mental health and learning disability trusts), employed by the NHS, together with a larger number of local authority-employed staff working in partnership and based within the NHS.

In mental health, social workers often undertake intensive post-qualifying training to hold roles linked to the Mental Health Act 1983, such as Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHP), Best Interest Assessor and Non-Medical Approved/Responsible Clinician (AC/RC).

Social workers comprise 95 per cent of the 3,900 Approved Mental Health Professional (AMHPs), but less than five of the non-medical approved clinicians come from a social work background.

The New Roles Task and Finish Group recommended the inclusion of social workers as a core part of HEE’s mental health workforce plan as a key lever to achieving Long Term Plan ambitions and to alleviate workforce pressure. We are also exploring the possibility of expanding this workforce using Higher Education Institute pathways and fast-track models in specialist roles.

Mental health social work in the NHS - short films

HEE is creating a series of films to promote awareness and understanding of the crucial role that mental health social workers play in health and care systems.

This film, the first of its kind, includes a variety of voices from different areas of social work, including community work, approved mental health professionals, the family group conferencing approach and the social work consultant role highlighting how patients, service users and families benefit from their contribution to the NHS.

Report from the New Roles Task and Finish Group

Transforming mental health social work conference

Expanding and enhancing the role of the mental health social worker

In this film, Mark Trewin, HEE Chair of the New Roles Implementation Group for Social Work, describes the important role mental health social workers and Approved Mental Health Professionals play in services. Working across the NHS, local authorities, voluntary and independent sectors, these roles ensure that the social model of mental health is at the core of our integrated services. The new roles work of Mark’s group focuses on expanding and enhancing the role of the mental health social worker, and providing support and guidance to NHS and other organisations on how best to recruit, retain and develop this key workforce.