The Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust is amongst only a handful of NHS Trusts in the South of England to have appointed a nurse to the role of Approved Clinician.
Traditionally, only psychiatrists could be an Approved Clinician, which meant they had sole responsibility for the overall care and treatment of someone detained under the Mental Health Act.
However, in 2007 amendments were made enabling non-medics, such as nurses, social workers, psychologists and occupational therapists, to become Approved Clinicians.
There are only 70 non-medical Approved Clinicians in England and Wales, with only approximately five of these being nurses, in the South of England.
Sarah Wood, who has been a Registered Mental Health Nurse (RMN) for over 20 years and joined AWP in 2010, is the Trust’s first non-medical Approved Clinician, having received her qualification in January 2019.
Sarah has worked in a number of roles throughout her career, including as a ward manager, modern matron and service manager and now works in AWPs Secure Services at Blackberry Hill Hospital in Bristol as an Approved Clinician, where she is responsible for a number of service users.
She works closely with two Consultant Psychiatrists in the low secure unit, as well as other Consultants in the Medium Secure unit. Their knowledge, and support is invaluable to her.
Speaking about the role, Sarah said: “I am delighted to have completed my portfolio and received my approval. For nurses who want to progress in their careers there become fewer opportunities to provide clinical input, as the role becomes more about management.
“Being an Approved Clinician allows me to continue to work with service users to develop their care pathways and input into their treatment.
“My duties include working alongside service users and the multi-disciplinary team in helping and supporting service users to get ready for discharge, through Care Programme Approach (CPA) meetings, ward rounds and care planning.
“I can renew sections when required and discharge from civil sections when it is appropriate to do so.
Sarah continued: “I enjoy spending time with service users, and I love learning. I have found this role completely refreshing and the consultant group I work with have really embraced it.
“I am very fortunate that I have been able to complete my portfolio and qualifications for this role while carrying out my day duties, meaning I could gain the essential experience needed.
“I think it’s really exciting for AWP, it’s a really forward thinking approach to be looking at multi-disciplinary Approved Clinicians and I would like to thank everyone within the Trust and Secure Services who have supported this role, for being innovative and open to new ways of working.
“I really feel that the Trust has invested in me to obtain the skills and knowledge I need and allowed me the time I needed to achieve this. I hope that the Trust will consider more Approved Clinician roles in the future.”
Consultant Psychiatrist, Claire Taylor, added: “We are so pleased that Sarah has gained Approved Clinician status. She has worked incredibly hard to complete a portfolio which demonstrates that she has all the competencies to take on the role.
“We are really proud that AWP’s Secure Services and senior management have recognised the strengths that nurses can bring to the role of Approved Clinicians and they have invested in this position.
“Sarah brings a wealth of previous experience to this role which will not only be beneficial to our service users, their families and carers, but also to our staff.”