President's column

Pam Maras writes.
What’s in a name? I’ve had correspondence about names in relation to statutory regulation in the last month, focusing mainly on who will and will not regulated, what the regulated title will be and how statutory regulation might affect academics and research psychologists.

What’s in a name? I’ve had correspondence about names in relation to statutory regulation in the last month, focusing mainly on who will and will not regulated, what the regulated title will be and how statutory regulation might affect academics and research psychologists.  

The Society’s position on statutory regulation is founded on the principle of public protection. However, it is governments, not bodies like us, that are responsible for law to make statutory regulation possible. The White Paper Trust, Assurance and Safety: The Regulation of Health Professionals in the 21st Century is the government’s response to regulation, and whilst we support the underlying principles to the White Paper, we continue to have major concerns about proposals for their implementation. Not least because the main emphasis in the White Paper is on regulating persons employed in or by the National Health Service, who deliver individual ‘patient’ services; whereas over half the psychologists who need to be regulated work outwith the NHS – in business, commerce, schools, prisons and education, and with individuals, groups and whole organisations.

That said, we very much welcome the recent comments of Lord Hunt, the Department of Health Minister responsible for regulation, that ‘statutory regulation should be a professionally led process’ and that ‘the way forward has to be led by the professions themselves’. We see these as exceptionally positive statements which promise an ethos of collaboration and responsiveness; the Society is committed to working with government and the Department to ensure that we get this right.

Reducing public risk/protecting the public is the primary reason for statutory regulation. The Society’s position is underpinned by the need for public protection and that those who need to be regulated should be regulated. By this we mean individuals that provide a direct service to the public that is based on psychological knowledge – most teaching and research is not such a service, accordingly most academics and researchers would not need to be regulated. We are aware though that some academics and researchers do provide a service, and may wish or need to be able to be registered. How these few people can be encompassed in any new procedures is yet to be decided and is an area that we will be discussing with the DoH.

It is important that the regulated title should not be confusing to the public – ‘applied psychologist’ (the Department of Health’s preferred title) would therefore not be suitable. Your Representative Council took a view that the preferred title should be ‘psychologist’; however, in the same discussion it was recognised that ‘registered psychologist’ might be the second option, in preference to a plethora of adjectival titles.  

The Society, with several of our partner organisations, attended a meeting with Lord Hunt in June. This was a vital meeting for us and our partners to enable us to check, clarify and question some of the detail of government policy, which is still rather vague in the White Paper. A Parliamentary Briefing document, mainly in response to the White Paper, was sent in May to all Members of Parliament and working Peers in Westminster, and to all Members of the Scottish Parliament, a few days after the Scottish Parliament reconvened after their general election. Advertisements have been placed in both the House Magazine, the magazine for the Westminster parliament, and in Holyrood, which is the equivalent magazine for the Scottish Parliament. We will continue to update you in progress on these activities through updates at www.bps.org.uk/statreg, and I am happy to receive comments or questions.

So names are important, some are functional and some personal but most are both. As I write this column our cat ‘Here-you-are’ is hanging around as only cats do – he’s called ‘Here-you-are’ because we spent so long trying to decide on a name that calling ‘here you are’ at the back door resulted in him leaping the fence and shooting through the cat door. Here-you-are’s name is both functional and personal – however, whilst it serves our and his purpose it does make for interesting early mornings when a large number of other cats can appear and several dogs walking past prick up their ears. If only BPS life were so simple!

Life as Society President is certainly never dull. It’s certainly hard work, but interesting and worthwhile – we are at a point of change, which offers exciting opportunities for the discipline. I would certainly encourage anyone to consider whether they would like to be part of that growth and development. If you think you would be suitable for the role, we’d like to hear from you. Nominations for President 2009-2010 have now opened – contact Nichola Whitmore-Cooper at the Society’s Leicester office or on [email protected] for more details.

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