Promoting Excellence In Psychological Health & Wellbeing

Best Practice in Recruitment within the Psychological Professions

16 Mar 21

Best Practice in Recruitment within the Psychological Professions

The Psychological Professions Network co-produced an ambitious Vision[1] for the psychological professions and exists to maximise the impact of the psychological professions for the public. We have over recent weeks found ourselves approached a number of times for views on the British Psychological Society (BPS)'s February 2021 publication: "Best Practice in Psychology Recruitment"[2]. This sets out a BPS recommendation that when recruiting to psychology posts:

  1. "Advertisements for psychologists use the appropriate title(s), based on the competences required to deliver the duties of the post. This will normally be an inclusive title such as applied psychologist/practitioner psychologist/registered psychologist
  2. The advertised job specifies the context of the role (e.g. Child Mental Health, Diabetes Service, etc.).
  3. The recruitment process includes a review of the essential and desirable criteria in Person Specifications to ensure they do not inadvertently exclude HCPC registered practitioner psychologists whose skills, knowledge and training would be appropriate for the advertised job role/s."

In March 2021, the Association of Clinical Psychologists (ACP-UK) issued a statement[3] rejecting the guidance, stating:

  1. "Most applied psychologist roles in the NHS require, specifically, the competencies associated with clinical psychology training including extensive knowledge of the NHS, multidisciplinary working, healthcare profession politics and managerial culture, mental health risk assessment and clinical formulation within these contexts as well as a broad range of therapeutic approaches. Appointing individuals to such posts, on the basis of the generic applied policy mandated by the BPS, fails to recognise competency differences between the different HCPC domains, threatens the welfare of vulnerable client groups, the quality of clinical psychology services and consequently the reputation of the profession.
  2. Part of the reason for the present recruitment difficulties within clinical psychology in England is the progressive reduction in senior posts as part of cost-savings in Trusts, resulting in the absence of career pathways and increasing numbers of clinical psychologists leaving the NHS for the private sector. There has been a failure of leadership to address this problem. Generic recruitment will not solve this problem.
  3. There are some cases where a post requires a competency set which is not specific to clinical psychology and where it is perfectly appropriate to appoint another applied psychology practitioner. Such cases should be very clearly specified on the basis of competency as agreed with a senior clinical psychologist within the Trust or service in which the post is located.
  4. The BPS guidance is aimed primarily at appointments to clinical psychologist posts. We note that appointments of Educational Psychologists, Forensic, Occupational Psychologists and Sport and Exercise Psychologists are not recruited on this basis but on the relevant domain registration with HCPC. As a matter of principle and integrity, we would expect the BPS to be arguing that clinical psychologists are also eligible (without further training) to be appointed to Educational, Forensic, Occupational and Sports and Exercise Psychologist posts. They clearly are not, because the respective BPS Divisions would, rightly, react very badly to such a suggestion."

As a Psychological Professions Network we want to foster a collective voice for the 12 psychological professions[4], working together, recognising the unique contributions of each and supporting opportunities for all of these disciplines to make the best possible contribution to NHS commissioned healthcare for the public. With this mission in mind, we want to offer the following contribution, based on our discussions within PPN England about the issues:

  1. Guidance from professional bodies regarding NHS practice is advisory rather than compulsory. NHS services should ensure their practices align to legal and national NHS frameworks, with input from professional leads representing the 12 psychological professions within services.
  2. We share the view that recruitment in the psychological professions should be based on required competences and governance requirements for the specific role;
  3. In some cases we believe there will be a justifiable requirement for specific qualifications for a role, recognising the differences in competences produced by core training in each of the psychological professions and governance requirements in specific services. IAPT services for example have specific qualifications and accreditations specified in the IAPT Manual;
  4. To avoid the spurious exclusion of competent individuals who do meet governance requirements, it is important that the decision to name a specific qualification as essential to fulfil a role is considered carefully in relation to the competences and governance requirements necessary for the role and the rationale for the decision made explicit
  5. We believe that best practice in recruitment would be to test each post released against the following questions:
    1. What are the essential competences and governance requirements for this role?
    2. What qualification or range of qualifications should be considered as essential to fulfilling these competences and governance requirements?
  6. Looking to the future growth of the psychological professions we anticipate that senior posts will more often be likely to meet the test for accepting a broader range of psychological professional qualifications. For example, we believe that Chief Psychological Professions Officer posts, if overseeing the professional practice of all 12 professions, should be open to people with any of the 12 of these professional qualifications (with appropriate breadth of senior leadership experience and competence).

We are interested in your views on this issue - please do take this discussion forward with your regional PPN Chair, or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Adrian Whittington, Gita Bhutani, Clare Baguley and Phil Self

On behalf of PPN England Board






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