Want to find out more about new Mental Health and Wellbeing Practitioner (MHWP) roles in the NHS? Karen Veri, MHWP Programme Lead for Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust spoke with the PPN South East about this important role and the impact it will have.
Could you explain your role?
I work within Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust’s Learning and Development (L&D) Department. I am the Mental Health and Wellbeing Practitioner (MHWP) Programme Lead. This is delivered at graduate and post-graduate levels, and we are the first to provide the programme in the Southeast. I also hold a second role as Module Lead on the Graduate level Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner (PWP) Apprenticeship.
How did you become involved in this work?
After working as a Senior PWP within an Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) service for several years, one of the elements that energised me, and that I found incredibly rewarding about the role, was supervising. I had a desire to support staff development, deliver training, and mentor trainees within the NHS. When Oxford Health’s L&D department began offering the first PWP Apprenticeship, I was eager to support this new initiative. My experience as a step 2 course lead, clinical supervisor and line manager enabled me to transition into teaching the low intensity programme.
Naturally, as part of an L&D department, I was encouraged to complete an Academic Professional qualification. This course allowed me to see world of adult learning from both side: as the student, as well as the educator. The completion of this qualification enabled me to undertake the task of rolling out the Mental Health and Wellbeing Practitioner Programme.
What is the path to becoming a MHWP?
The fantastic thing about this programme is that those interested in applying do not need to have previous clinical or professional expertise in mental health. As long as you meet the academic requirements to undertake graduate or post-graduate study, having the interpersonal skills to deliver person-centred care is really what we are looking for. Applicants also need to show a commitment to working with people with complex mental health needs.
In our first cohort we have students from a range of backgrounds including mental health settings, teaching assistants, prison workers, police officers and sales.
The programme consists of 45 days across 3 modules, covering the assessment and engagement, collaborative care planning and wellbeing-focused, psychologically-informed interventions for severe mental health problems.
Why is it important for this new role to be created?
How do I put this in a nutshell? It’s important for the work force, the service user and services.
As outlined above, it’s exciting to offer opportunities for individuals from various walks of life to enter training in one of the psychological professions. This role offers a way in where previously there were barriers.
For service users, the role will contribute towards reducing the chances that people will not get the care they need, which can happen when they do not meet the threshold for secondary care services. Having worked in IAPT for several years, I have personally seen the impact that evidence-based therapies can have on someone’s life; everyone should have access to such tools. Further to this, MHWP’s will provide personalised, holistic, responsive care and will empower people to access services in their local communities.
For mental health services, all the above is a benefit and of vital importance. We can train staff that are passionate about what they do, with a wide range of experience and who are working towards a shared vision for mental health provision. As the MHWP work force becomes established, it will allow existing staff to spend time supporting those with more complex needs but also, the opportunity to take up training opportunities themselves. Furthermore, this is one of the steps towards implementing the principles set out in The Community Mental Health Framework for Adults and Older Adults.
What impact do you believe MHWPs will have within the psychological professions workforce?
I hope that the MHWP’s will become as established in community mental health teams as the PWP role has become in IAPT and will play a key role in delivering active, meaningful, and evidence-based interventions to people with serious mental health problems.
Welcoming individuals from a wide range of backgrounds is incredibly important to me on a personal level. Being black British myself, I think there is value in having psychological professionals that are representative of the communities we support and as mentioned, feel that this is a step towards a more inclusive NHS.
The South East PPN will be holding an event in November 2022 as part of PPN Week where you can learn more about MHWPs and alternative routes into the psychological professions from trainees and supervisors. You can also find out more about careers within the NHS psychological professions by heading over to the PPN Career Map.