Society

President’s column; internet research ethics guidance; influencing NICE consultations; and more

President’s column
Richard Mallows
Contact Richard Mallows via the Society’s Leicester office,
or e-mail: [email protected]

As this is the festive season, I am offering a small prize for the most unusual gift idea related to ‘Presidency’. My family and friends have found it amusing to buy me items related to being President. Thus various foodstuffs, a beautiful clematis and a book entitled How to Be the President. The book would be very helpful if I was heading for the White House! The winning entry and winner’s name will be announced in the New Year column unless anonymity is requested.

The Royal Institution was the recent venue for an evening chaired by Claudia Hammond on ‘Mind games: Can psychology change the world and why doesn’t it?’ It was clear that psychology could change the world by its very subject matter, but the perennial problem was that of translating research into policy. Years of finely honed research being reduced to a one page executive summary could be and probably is quite disheartening.

One of the contributors to the discussion ex- President Tommy Mackay, despite having applied his work so successfully with his literacy project in Scotland, remains a little wary of the policy world. This is reflected upon by Alan Baddeley in the latest British Journal of Psychology. Based on 40 years experience in basic and applied psychology Baddeley emphasises the mismatch of timescale. He uses the gestation of CBT as an exemplar. Gregory Bateson once said that the distinction between the hard and soft sciences could be better presented as the hard sciences and then there are the difficult ones.

Psychologists, when attempting to present their science-based evidence to politicians, are met with a riposte of ‘policy-based evidence’. When this is challenged the defence is that there are limits to evidence, and beyond that it is all down to value judgements. An impasse.

The Academy of Social Sciences has been very effective in presenting the work of social scientists, particularly through their ‘Making the Case’ series and now into this arena has stepped an exciting group entitled ‘Policy Brains’. This is an enthusiastic new group who aim to bring together psychologists and policy makers to consider how insights from research could help to tackle some of the big issues facing the UK. Rupert Brown, the other psychologist at the RI event, would approve of contact between these groups and the BPS as a means of furthering the translation of research into the policy domain. Claudia declared that her Christmas present would be for us to have a Chief Psychologist working with the Government Chief Scientific Adviser. Would this be a goal to pursue?

I am delighted to announce the launch of the Society’s 2014 CPD programme (see p.890). Nearly all the member networks are engaged with the development of the programme, and for the first time our Sections CPD workshop provision has expanded. As a result, the programme provides a wider range of topics with even more opportunity for cross-discipline networking.

The annual CPD programme demonstrates the Society’s continuing commitment. I hope you enjoy as many of these opportunities as you can. At the time of writing, the General Assembly will shortly be discussing contributions to the Strategic Plan. These will be collated with individual responses from members and written submissions from member networks for the Trustees to consider at their awayday at the end of November. 

Despite reservations about the cyber world expressed in last month’s column there is no doubt that for ease and convenience the internet is irresistible. At this time of year particularly, with one click, a good wish, a donation or a gift can be given. Some of you will read this message online and even the printed version will have visited the cyber world en route, enabling me to wish all members and staff a very happy Christmas time.

 

Increasing our influence on NICE consultations
The role of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is to improve outcomes for people using the NHS and other public health and social care services and workplaces, by producing evidence-based guidance and advice, developing quality standards and performance metrics for service providers, workplace managers and commissioners and providing a range of information services for commissioners, practitioners and managers and employees across health and social care and workplaces throughout the UK.

NICE clinical guidelines provide the NHS and others with advice on the management of individual conditions and on preventative public health issues, where ill health can be prevented, health and well-being improved – for example by improving conditions in the workplace. Statements are systematically developed to assist professional and patient decisions about appropriate care for specific clinical circumstances – including mental health and well-being-related issues – and public health guidance can help other organisations, such as employers, increase health and well-being for broader populations.

The Society has long been a core stakeholder with NICE; it is therefore essential that we, as the representative body for psychology, continue to make high-quality evidence-based contributions to its work whenever the appropriate opportunities arise.

The Society significantly influenced two consultations issued by NICE recently. Dr Alick Bush, a Chartered Psychologist and Lead Psychologist at St Andrews Hospital, Nottinghamshire, and Dr Julian Morris, a Chartered Psychologist who works at Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, were recently joint lead authors for the Society’s response to Challenging behaviour in people with learning disability: Scope Consultation (see tinyurl.com/kw64maa). Due to the quality of the response and the clarity of the arguments, NICE accepted 21 of the 24 suggested amendments that the Society suggested.

Dr Bush said: ‘This is the second significant consultation response that we’ve participated in recently and we have been pleasantly surprised how receptive NICE have been to our recommendations. As a result of the input from the profession on these consultations, we believe that we have had a significant impact on influencing positive outcomes for people with learning disabilities. This is particularly important at the present time as we are trying to use our influence to improve services and policy for vulnerable people.’

The Society also responded the NICE consultation Workplace Policy and Management Practices to improve the health of employees: Draft Scope (see tinyurl.com/o3se9g6). This response was led by Emma Donaldson-Feilder, a Chartered Psychologist and Director of Affinity Health at Work. This response made a total of 48 suggested amendments to improve the clarity and quality of the draft scope of which, 44 were accepted by the NICE Guidance Development Group.

Mrs Donaldson-Feilder said: ‘It is so important to get psychological evidence used in public policy making and in national standard setting. Psychology has an enormous amount to offer, particularly around improving health and well-being in the workplace – it is great to feel that we are getting our voices heard. I am delighted that so many psychologists contributed to our response to this consultation – and even more so that so many of our contributions were taken on board. Many thanks to all who helped make this a success.’

These success stories emphasise the importance of consultation responses as a key aspect of the Society’s work in influencing policy of government and non-government organisations. The Society encourages all members to get involved and contribute to consultations. Any member holding a graduate membership or higher is welcome to contribute, and it is a fantastic opportunity to use your specialist knowledge to make a genuine difference.

For further information on consultations that the Society is coordinating responses to, go to www.bps.org.uk/consultations
or contact Joe Liardet on [email protected]

 

Internet research ethics guidance

Internet-mediated research (IMR) can raise particular, sometimes non-obvious, challenges in adhering to existing ethics principles. Produced by a working party of the Research Board, the new Ethics Guidelines for Internet Mediated Research closely follows the principles and advice offered in the Code of Human Research Ethics (2011), highlighting areas where these may become problematic and require particularly careful consideration in an IMR context. The normal principles of ethical research with human participants apply to internet-mediated research, and the basics of ethical practice are not changed. However, the implications of these principles for practice may differ in IMR contexts, and aspects of online environments may make particular issues salient in ways they have not been in traditional research. These issues include: the public/private domain distinction online; confidentiality and security of online data; procedures for obtaining valid consent; procedures for ensuring withdrawal rights and debriefing; levels of researcher control; and implications for scientific value and potential harm. Emphasis throughout is on offering advice on how to think about and apply existing ethics principles in an IMR context, while recognising that issues need to be assessed and decisions made within the context of a particular piece of research.

The primary function of this document is to help researchers and research ethics committees plan and evaluate research proposals, and to help with the process of ethical decision making in the context of specifying and implementing appropriate IMR research designs. It is not intended to provide a ‘rule book’ for IMR. It should be recognised that technologies, their social uses and the associated implications for research may change rapidly over time and new considerations will become salient. This requires a return to ‘first principles’ and an informed application of general ethics principles to the new situation. As pointed out in the Code of Human Research Ethics, ‘thinking is not optional’ (2011, p.4).

Dr Claire Hewson, convenor of the working party said: ‘In developing these guidelines the working party was confronted with some quite challenging issues on which we did not always initially agree. For example, people have taken quite different viewpoints on the nature of the public-private distinction online, and when it may or may not be ethically acceptable to access and use people's activity traces (e.g. discussion group posts) as research data. Ultimately, the group reached agreement that such issues could not be resolved by applying hard-and-fast rules, but that the specificities of any particular research context would need to be taken into account to determine appropriate ethics practice and procedures. A fundamental principle that we kept coming back to was that ethical procedures and safeguards should be implemented so as to be proportional to the level of risk and potential harm to participants. We hope that these new guidelines are helpful both in pointing out some of the particular risks in internet-mediated research which may not always be obvious, and in suggesting procedures which can help in minimising levels of risk.’

The new guidelines can be downloaded from www.bps.org.uk/IMR and hard copies can be requested from Liz Beech (liz.[email protected])

 

Crossing the divides

A thought-provoking one-day conference entitled ‘Therapeutic Interventions – Actions not Words’ which highlighted and developed knowledge around culture and black and ethnic minority issues was held at the Society’s London office on 23 October 2013. The conference was a cross-divisional event between the Divisions of Clinical Psychology and Counselling Psychology, with participation from members of the Division of Educational and Child Psychology. Over 80 psychologists attended comprising members of each Division as well as trainees and people undertaking a range of programmes in psychology. We were lucky to have the Chairs of each Division or their representatives, who each spoke on their divisional strategy on black and minority ethnic (BME) issues.

The morning of the conference was given over to four eminent and engaging speakers drawn from various branches of psychology and one from psychiatry. The topics covered included unconscious bias, assessment, formulation and culture, liberation psychology and therapeutic communities for BME people in psychiatric services. In the afternoon there was a choice of four workshops before the tea break: the use of narrative methods when trying to improve engagement with culturally diverse communities; culture and diversity – focusing on black women and identity; assessment and formulation; and working with interpreters. After tea a further choice of four workshops were available to conference attendees: quality and equality coming together in policy and practice; working with older adults; therapeutic use of film to liberate young people from disempowering identities (the Richmond Park project); and spirituality. In addition to excellent speakers drawn from a wide range of practitioner backgrounds, there were opportunities for networking and sharing experiences and expertise across divisional boundaries, over lunch and at the breaks as well as at the workshops.

The conference was sold out, and the conference organisers received numerous requests for further cross-divisional events on this theme to be held and for enhanced BPS representation on these issues. In addition, the formal written feedback on the day was excellent, with 100 per cent of feedback rating it as very or extremely informative, structured and interesting and 97 per cent rating the day as very or extremely relevant. The evaluation feedback also highlighted that participants particularly valued the cultural diversity of the audience and the speakers, which provided the opportunity to engage with a range of perspectives that located culture at the centre of the discussions, and the opportunity to discuss implications for individual and organisational practice within psychology. Some typical comments from the evaluation sheets: There were many interesting perspectives to take on board and take back to colleagues and superiors with regards to the work we currently do and work I would like to do in the future.

[The most useful feature was] awareness of the diversity that is in the BPS! First workshop I’ve been to at the BPS where there was a significant number of BME psychologists – as a trainee it is good to know that they exist.

Across divisions/professions we need to share the key cultural/racial issues that arise and support other professionals as well as our own to effectively deal with cultural/race/diversity issues.

Given the response to our conference, the organising committee is hoping to make the conference an annual event and to invite other Divisions and groups within the BPS to participate, we hope you will join us.

Professor Rachel Tribe, Counselling and Occupational Psychologist, School of Psychology, UEL
Dilanthi Weerasinghe, Educational Psychologist, London Borough of Haringey,
Professor Zenobia Nadirshaw Independent Practitioner – Consultant Clinical Psychologist

 

Science Museum
‘Mind Maps’ exhibition opens IN December
As part of a five-year sponsorship arrangement with the Science Museum in London the Society has helped fund and develop a new exhibition. ‘Mind Maps: Stories from Psychology’ opens on Tuesday 10 December and is set to run for nine months.

The exhibition presents stories of how mental health conditions and other psychological disorders have been treated over the past 250 years. Divided into four episodes between 1780 and the present, the exhibition will look at key breakthroughs in the scientific understanding of psychological well-being and at the tools and methods of assessment and treatment that have been developed from Mesmerism to cognitive behavioural therapy to recent advances in understanding brain function and activity.

Society President Richard Mallows said: ‘I am delighted that the Society has had the opportunity to work with the world-renowned Science Museum to support the development of this exhibition. It will be an excellent opportunity for a wide-ranging audience to get an insight into psychology and our fascination with the mind.’

For more information go to the exhibition webpage at tinyurl.com/m9jqp4r

 

Criminal justice system and autism project

An impressive range of professionals came together in September for what one called ‘a very worthwhile event with excellent speakers’. He or she went on to say that it ‘demonstrated the huge potential to create positive change when a range of professionals and experts are brought together and experiences are shared’.

The conference being praised was the first of two organised by the Autism and Criminal Justice System project. Funded by a Society public engagement grant, the project aims to promote the transfer of knowledge between the many different professions that encounter people with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) in the criminal justice system (CJS). It is also producing research-based guidelines on managing ASD in CJS settings.

Held at Greater Manchester Police’s Sedgley Park training centre, the solution-focused conference looked at ways to improve access to justice and fair treatment of people with autism within the CJS. It included 89 participants drawn from the judiciary, barristers, solicitors, senior police officers, intermediaries, social care commissioners, victim support advisors, psychiatrists, psychologists, the Department of Health, the Ministry of Justice and representatives and autism charities.

Presentations made on the day looked at the vulnerability of people with ASD to involvement in criminality; recognising and screening for ASD; training and resources for police and legal professionals; and the best ways to adapt practices within police settings and the court system.You can find all the presentations from the day on the project website  (www.autismandcjs.org.uk). This site, say the project organisers, will grow to become a home for all the important resources on autism and the CJS.

Other feedback from participants included ‘a thoroughly enjoyable and fruitful day’, ‘thanks for getting so many key people together’ and ‘best conference I have been to for ages’.

Tax campaign targets psychologists

Psychologists are among the health professionals being give the chance to bring their tax affairs up to date on the best terms possible under a campaign launched by HM Revenue and Customs. If you are a psychologist working in the health sector and you have undisclosed tax liabilities that you want to put in order, you can take advantage of the opportunity being offered under the Health and Wellbeing Tax Plan.

Those affected have until 31 December to contact HMR and tell them they want to bring their tax affairs up to date. They then have until 6 April 2014 to make the disclosure and pay what they owe.

Marian Wilson, Head of HMRC Campaigns, said: ‘Participating in the campaign will allow people to take advantage of the best terms available and increase the chances of avoiding a higher penalty based on behaviour. Not taking advantage of the campaign window of opportunity could mean people face a penalty equivalent to up to 100 per cent of the amount of tax and National Insurance Contributions owed –or even criminal prosecution.Those who take part will also avoid a potentially expensive and time-consuming tax inquiry, as well as the damage to their reputation which a criminal investigation can bring.’

Once the notification window closes, HMRC say they intend to follow up with a programme of compliance interventions. Marian Wilson warned that they will continue to use sophisticated software to look more closely at those who have not come forward voluntarily and could contact people at any time.

To find out more about the campaign, go to www.gov.uk/voluntary-disclosure-health-wellbeing

Society vacancies
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Contact [email protected] Closing date 10 January 2014

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