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Careers Blog


The current edition of Private Eye (publication date 4th August 2016) outlines concerns about the regulation of psychologists. In particular, the journalists comment that; “providing psychologists don’t use one of the … so-called protected titles … any can offer their services without the need to be registered and regulated by the UK’s watchdog the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). Even if serious concerns or complaints are raised about them, they remain immune from investigation because they’re not registered”.

Many BPS members have raised this issue with me and my predecessors. So what’s the solution?

One option might be to press for regulation of the title 'psychologist'. That may well close the loophole to an extent, but it’s far from perfect. Protection of the public from charlatans is vital, but it may be seen as disproportionate to require all who call themselves psychologists to pay to register with HCPC. Our academic colleagues, who do not offer services to the public in that sense, may find that onerous. That solution would require legislative change and wouldn’t do anything to bring people legitimately using titles such as ‘psychotherapist’ or ‘cognitive therapist’ into the regulatory fold (and thereby help protect the public). The unscrupulous would merely avoid that new regulated title and would continue to mislead the public with new variations on the theme.

But we probably don't need that solution, as I believe the HCPC already has more power to act.

Under Article 39(1) of the Health and Social Work Professions Order 2001, it is a criminal offence for a person, with intent to deceive (whether clearly or by implication), to: – claim that they are on the HCPC Register; – use a title protected by the Order to which they are not entitled; or – claim falsely that they have qualifications in a relevant profession. It is clear to me that a person who uses a title such as 'consultant psychologist' is by implication claiming qualifications or professional status that they do not possess. 

In other words, we do seem to have the legal powers to act, but seldom do. Perhaps a better question, then, would be to ask why HCPC don’t avail themselves more often of this route. It’s at least possible that we, as psychologists, are complicit  assuming that there’s a legal loophole and not complaining. 

At the same time, we need to get our house in order. Those of us who are legitimately qualified and experienced professionals who provide a service to the public but feel it is acceptable not to be registered because they don’t use a protected title should consider this as a call to action to reflect on their own accountability. The Society is improving its professional practice guidelines and could use them in collaboration with HCPC to outline more clearly the standards of professional behaviour that we value.

It’s possible that we also need more explicit legislation to clarify the language and allow prosecution more easily. This could also bring professions such as psychotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapists under the regulatory remit. The Government is beginning the process of consultation to consider major reforms that would unify the regulatory Councils. The aim is to improve the legislative approach to address these ‘regulated functions’ rather than merely ‘regulated title’ issues. We have quite a lot to benefit from such changes. We need to close loopholes, and we can learn from the other regulatory Councils. For example, the title ‘doctor’ is not a protected title (that is, instead, ‘registered medical practitioner’) and yet the public is relatively well protected from charlatans pretending “by implication” to be doctors in the lay-person’s meaning of the word. Having a PhD obviously wouldn’t protect me, for instance.

We should engage closely in the imminent consultation, and press for both a more intelligent approach to the regulation of our profession and sister professions, as well as for a closure of the ‘implied competence’ loophole, if necessary. It would be timely to look to improving investigatory processes, and to look at a more mature relationship between the BPS (which has a duty to promote the profession) and HCPC (with a more specific remit to protect the public) as they work together in the public interest. There is a lot to be gained from a unified approach to regulation in health and social care, and I believe that it would be valuable to extend statutory regulation to all the psychotherapeutic professions. However, in the meantime I think that there is a lot that the BPS and its members can do to ensure that those legitimately offering a service to the public ensure that they are registered, regulated and accountable, that they report cases where people appear to be committing offences by implied possession of qualifications they do not possess, and pressing HCPC to pursue prosecution using means that appear to be available by seldom used. 



Wed, 03/08/2016 - 14:53

Professor Jamie Hacker HughesThis week has continued to be fantastic.

On Tuesday, I welcomed 650 A and AS Level students to the London Psychology for Students event. We hold two of these at the end of every year – one outside London and one in London -  and the first of these took place in Sheffield a couple of weeks ago.

In London the students listened to:

  • Dr Peter Lovatt (‘Dr Dance’) from the University of Hertfordshire on the psychology of dance;
  • Dr Richard Stephens, the psychobiologist from Keele University on the psychology of swearing; and
  • Forensic psychologist Dr Julian Boon from the University of Leicester on criminal profiling and crime scene assessment.

On Wednesday, I welcomed a similar number of psychology graduates to our Psychology for Graduates event, again in London, where I  joined the other keynote speakers:

  • John Amaechi, psychologist and former NBA basketball player, of Amaechi Performance Systems;
  • George Kitsaras, our 50000th member and assistant psychologist with Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust;
  • Dr Carolyn Mair of London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London;
  • James Randall-James, Co-Chair of Pre-Qualifications Group (DCP) and Steph Minchin Pre-Qualifications Group (DCP), clinical psychology trainees at the University of Hertfordshire;
  • Dr Rob Yeung, an organisational psychologist from Talentspace Ltd.

The atmosphere and buzz at both events was electric and the interest in the BPS and several other stands in the exhibition stalls was incredible.

Our profession and discipline of psychology is in very good hands. Good luck to everyone who attended both events and, if you need any more information, just get in touch!

Thu, 03/12/2015 - 16:35

The audience at last year's Psychology4Graduates


With the autumn and the new academic year fast approaching, there is an impressive list of Society events coming up.

The Society’s History of Psychology Centre is looking forward to 2016 and the 60th anniversary of the Division of Clinical Psychology with an event at the University of London on 14 October. Clinically Applied: Origins of a Profession has been convened by John Hall and will feature contributions from senior members of the clinical psychology profession.

These annual HoPC ‘Stories of Psychology’ symposiums are always fascinating. I spoke at last year’s one, which had a First World War theme. You can find all the presentations from it on the Society’s Youtube channel.

Another celebration is the 10th anniversary of our very popular Research Digest. On 9 December, again at the University of London, the Digest’s editor Christian Jarrett and Uta Firth will discuss Psychology: Heaven and Hell.

The event will reflect the structure of peer-reviewed journal papers - the ‘References’ being represented by the wine, nibbles and networking at the close of the evening.

On 17 September Dr Michael Anderson from the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit will give this year’s joint British Academy / British Psychological Society lecture on “Keeping a spotless mind: The neuroscience of ‘motivated forgetting’.

In recent years participation in both the Cheltenham Science and Literature Festivals has become an important part of the Society’s public engagement programme. They offer the opportunity to bring psychology to new audiences.

This year’s Literature Festival takes place in Cheltenham from 2-11 October and the Society will be sponsoring three intriguing sessions.

Alastair Campbell, Matthew Syed and the neuroscientist Vincent Walsh will tell you How to Win at Life, while the writer Matt Haig and the health psychologist Professor Rory O’Connor will offer Reasons to Stay Alive.

In the third session, Dangerous Minds, the Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad will join the psychologist Kevin Dutton to present her account of the massacre perpetrated by Anders Breivik.

We shall again be running two of our popular Psychology4Students events, which are designed to intrigue and inspire A level, pre-tertiary and first year undergraduate psychology students. This year’s venues are Sheffield (19 November) and London (1 December).

A newer but equally popular event is Psychology4Graduates. This is aimed at an older audience: recent graduates who may be considering a professional career in psychology. This year it will be held in London on 2 December.

My colleagues in the Presidential team and I look forward to meeting many of you at these events over the next few months.

Thu, 03/09/2015 - 12:22