Bringing psychology to government policy
APRIL saw considerable activity from the Society’s Policy Response
Unit – 13 responses were submitted, involving the hard work of many
Society members. Here are details of some of them.
NHS research ethics
Researchers working within the NHS will be interested to hear of recent developments in procedures for ethical review. Hugh Foot, who led the Society’s response to the consultation (which applied to England and Scotland only), explained the background: ‘Despite the attempts of the Central Office for Research Ethics Committees to harmonise and speed up the process of ethical review within the NHS, most researchers have complained bitterly of bureaucracy and the inconsistent handling of proposals. Because of such concerns Lord Warner announced that he would review the operation of the ethics system in England before the National Patient Safety Agency took over COREC’s function in April 2006. The NPSA’s NHS REC Change Advisory Group was set up to consider Lord Warner’s recommendations and agree
an implementation plan for England, and the Scottish Ethics Advisory Group considered the situation in Scotland. It is consultation over these sets of recommendations to which the Research Board of the Society has just given its response.’ Full details of the NPSA implementation recommendations can be viewed on: tinyurl.com/nnqek.
One of the key proposals is to reconfigure the REC system as a ‘more agile research ethics service’. This will include a triage system operated by a team of independent National Research Ethics Advisers, situated within COREC, who will direct ‘appropriate’ studies for consideration by full committees but filter out those that do not need full ethical review. Such studies include ‘surveys or other non-research activity if they present no material ethical issues for human participants’. Exactly why surveys are regarded as ‘non-research’ is unclear. Guidelines have still to be developed to aid researchers and committees to decide what is appropriate for triage or for handling by RECs.
Other recommendations are for recompensing employers for the time REC members spend on committee work, for drawing upon a wider mix of society supported by appropriate training and for improving the application process and the application form. The Society responded by broadly endorsing the recommendations of the Warner Report and the implementation recommendations. The Society also pressed that training offered to the National Advisers included specific awareness of psychological research and that psychologists (in particular clinical psychologists) should be invited to serve on NHS RECs.
Responding to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority on the GCE AS/A-level subject criteria for science, the Society called
for more emphasis on critical thinking and commentary.
The revised content, with a minimum of only two core areas to be covered at A2,
still allows otherwise excellent A-level students to effectively ignore major areas taught at degree level (e.g. cognitive psychology, neuroscience).
The response also called for more joined-up thinking between GCSE and A-level, and a more contemporary feel to the topics given emphasis. The consultation response concluded: ‘The proposed expansion of pre-degree psychology will require major changes in the resourcing and provision of teacher training, and this will be a key factor in the success (or otherwise) of these proposals.’
Trafficking, HIV, work, and more
Other responses included one to the Home Office and Scottish Executive on tackling human trafficking, prepared by Dr Jane Ireland and Dr Suzanne Conboy-Hill. It was felt that the consultation document was weighted towards women and sexual exploitation, and the Society called for more on other forms of exploitation, including the exploitation of men and forced child labour. The response went on to describe trafficking as an abuse system based on familiar patterns of isolation, destruction of self-esteem, institution of fear and dependence. Counter-measures of information, de-isolation, and emotional support were advocated, along with careful assessment of the risk
of breaking free of an organised crime system. The potential for staff dealing with such cases to become ‘burned out’ was also highlighted.
A response to the consultation on the UK Department of Health Report to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS proposed that ‘systematic counselling should be mandatory in all NHS and private STI clinic consultations’. It also flagged up growing evidence from US research that ‘baby boomer’ older adults are engaging in unprotected sex with the assumptions that their generation are not infected
and that they do not need to guard against fertility complications. As the ageing population increases, research is urgently needed in Britain to underpin an NHS action plan for health professional training and older adult care in this area.
Responding to the Department of Work and Pensions Green Paper A New Deal for Welfare: Empowering People to Work, the Society argued that ‘employers should take a more active role both in prevention of any health problems and in effective rehabilitation and a return to work’. It also called for ‘some well-executed “return on investment” research aimed at employers, demonstrating the benefits that can be accrued from health-focused preventative measures in the workplace e.g. reduced sickness absence’.
Other activity included responses to consultations on the new lasting power of attorney, to the Department of Trade and Industry on maternity and adoption leave and flexible working, and on substance misuse services in Scotland.
o To view all current Society consultations and responses, and to get involved, see www.bps.org.uk/publications/consultation-papers/consultation-papers_home.cfm. For more information on Society consultations generally, please contact Christina Docchar, Policy Unit Support Manager. E-mail: [email protected].
Dr Robert Durham
THE BPS Fellowship Committee has awarded a Fellowship to Dr Robert Durham. Dr Durham is a senior lecturer in clinical psychology at the University of Dundee and is a noted international expert in the management and treatment of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) using cognitive behaviour therapy. His initial clinical training was at the Institute of Psychiatry, from where he moved to Whitchurch Hospital in Cardiff working alongside John Teasdale and David Hawks. He moved to the USA to study for his PhD in clinical psychology, returning to the Tayside Area Clinical Psychology Department in Dundee. From then onwards he has been prolific in his research output on GAD. most notable of which is his collaborative work using randomised controlled clinical trials of psychological therapy for GAD demonstrating the powerful impact of cognitive therapy on this common clinical disorder. This research finding was further reinforced in his following series of studies supported by the NHS Executive Health Technology Assessment programme.
Robert Durham continues to explore the research data and regularly adds to the clinical literature in journals and book chapters.
Dr Durham was invited to be a member of the British Association for Psychopharmacology committee on treatment for anxiety disorders and continues to serve that body. He has also made significant contributions to the training of clinical psychologists in Scotland and other health professions working in mental health.
It is for this high-quality and focused contributions to applied psychology, which is now recognised nationally and internationally, that the committee is pleased to confer his Fellowship award.
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