British Psychological Society faces Charity Commission probe

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Spatch
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British Psychological Society faces Charity Commission probe

Post by Spatch »

Article in the Telegraph about the BPS, and not sure what to make of this.

Linked here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/0 ... ommission/
The British Psychological Society (BPS) is being examined by the Charity Commission as it faces complaints including allegations that it is potentially putting patients at risk by arguing for the right for psychologists to prescribe drugs including hormone blockers to transgender patients. The learned society faces allegations of poor governance, lack of openness and transparency and silencing academic dissent, and The Telegraph understands the president-elect is among those to have complained to the regulator. There have been at least 10 complaints to the commission, which has confirmed that it is "examining concerns about the governance and management of the BPS as part of an ongoing regulatory compliance case".

It comes amid claims that a recommendation to the NHS that psychologists should be given prescribing rights was a "biased" process "skewed" toward making it easier to prescribe hormone blockers. Psychologists do not currently have the power to prescribe drugs, but discussions are ongoing at the NHS on whether to recommend that ministers should be advised to change the rules. Alongside concerns over the prescribing of hormone blockers, fears have been raised by some BPS members that such a change would lead to an increase in the prescription of drugs such as antidepressants and the over-medication of patients.

Peter Kinderman, a former president of the BPS and professor of clinical psychology at the University of Liverpool, said the society needed to "get its act together" as the advice that it gives on such issues is of "dramatic importance". It comes as a number of trustees resigned including David Murphy, the vice-president, who publicly cited concerns "about governance oversight, escalating expenditure and lack of openness and transparency".

The BPS said in a statement that the board "has to make difficult decisions" and if a trustee cannot accept the decision then "the correct course of action is to step down".

The society is also embroiled in a police investigation for fraud by abuse of position after a female employee allegedly spent huge sums on a credit card. She has been arrested and bailed by Leicestershire police. Members, including two former chairs of the society's Division of Clinical Psychology, have set up a campaign group to call for a change in the way it is managed.

One dossier of complaints to the Charity Commission, being considered by a caseworker at the regulator, details seven allegations against the society including routine failure of the complaints process and censorship of academic freedoms and dissent. The regulator has been told the BPS "flatly ignored" a letter from 100 members expressing concern about the issue of prescribing rights, recommended in a report published by the society in October. The letter, seen by The Telegraph, warned that the professionals had "grave concerns about the proposal to extend prescribing rights to some psychologists, and about the process through which the BPS view is being decided".

Prof Kinderman sat on the panel deciding on the issue and said members had attempted to make their recommendations in favour before the consultation had even concluded. The professor, who is opposed to extending prescribing rights to psychologists partly because of concerns about society's over-reliance on medication, said the "agenda seemed to be driven by hormone blockers" and the "whole debate was effectively biased and heavily skewed".

"Children are receiving both counselling and, in some cases, medical intervention in order to change gender on the basis of our public, scientific and medical understanding of the nature of gender. What the UK's, and therefore what one of the world's, most reputable scientific bodies says about these issues really matters," he added. He argued that the society had an impact on way in which psychologists practice and are perceived in the real world, adding: "The negative side of all of this is if the BPS doesn't get its act together then we'll leave this important business to other people who will tell nonsense to the public."

A BPS spokesman said that despite "strong views" among members, the working group on prescribing rights had gone through an "expert and democratic process" and the research and two-year consultation showed that it "could be useful in certain settings". The spokesman added that the society "does not currently have a fixed position on this issue", which would be decided by Parliament in any event.

The November 2020 prescribing rights report came after a report in July 2019 on gender, sexuality and relationship diversity, with a crossover of some professionals on both panels. The guidelines were publicly criticised by a group of 23 psychologists who warned the advice that a "'gender-affirmative' stance should be the default position" meant they were required to apply a "pre-determined 'diagnosis' or explanation" without exploring the nature or cause of the distress. The BPS says the guidelines are aimed at adults only, but concern has been raised that at no point in the document does it state this or define the age range of "young people" that are repeatedly referred to.

Despite the complaints, the spokesman said the guidelines are "not, in our view, at all contentious. They require our members not to discriminate against individuals and to treat them with respect". The members' campaign group last month called on Ian Karet, the new chairman of the Charity Commission, to formally intervene in the society because "the situation is critical" and they are "desperate to see a restoration of health and reputation for the BPS".

A letter written by Pat Harvey, the former chairman of the Division of Clinical Psychology at the BPS, on behalf of the group warned that there has been "the collapse of legitimate administration, policy and practice at the BPS, a learned and professional Royal Chartered body with important responsibilities to the public and its members". The BPS spokesman recognised that "debates on professional issues are often vigorous and the past 18 months have been turbulent" as the organisation is going through a process of reorganisation. But he argued that the complaints had come from a "very small group" of 60,000 members who "are unwilling to accept the outcome of our consultations and policy positions and have continued to be highly vocal in their opposition, as is their right".

The spokesman added: "The BPS is not perfect, and there is always room for improvement in any organisation. It is clear to us that stronger governance processes will be required in the future, and this work is well under way. We have kept the Charity Commission fully informed of developments throughout and continue to engage with them."
The BPS response is here:

https://www.bps.org.uk/news-and-policy/ ... -telegraph

I get the feeling there is way more to the story than in either of these two documents, but would be good to get the perspective of someone who is more aware of what is going on behind the scenes.
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alexh
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Re: British Psychological Society faces Charity Commission probe

Post by alexh »

I don't think they are the only legitimate voice representing clinical psychologists any more but tend to behave as if they are.
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Re: British Psychological Society faces Charity Commission probe

Post by miriam »

Why do the Tory press all start with the anti-trans stuff these days? Surely that's a group of people who deserve our support in whatever form causes them least distress and risk of self-harm and suicide, rather than all this stuff about anti-woke identity politics? And how has that been blurred into the mess they made of the prescribing consultation? I wrote vociferously about that, but it wasn't anything to do with hormone blockers - which are not my area of expertise but appear to me to be broadly a good thing - it was all about changing our role to be subserviant to a medical model.

So on that, I wholeheartedly agree with the BPS response to the article.

But as regards the BPS more broadly, I've raised various concerns over the years that despite the fantastic neworks and faculties, the core doesn't work effectively for members. There has been a lot of disatisfaction from clinical psychologists in particular and a desire to create change from the inside has elected the last few presidents (and created the ACP-UK). There is also a reflection of the societal schisms about whether we take a more sociopolitical stance about issues like racism, sexism, gender identity, and contextualising distress rather than seeing mental health as an individual/medical issue and this seems to have come to a head this year.

There must be serious concerns for the past president and current president to step down, and the charities commission to investigate, and if David Murphy expressed concerns about "governance oversight, escalating expenditure and lack of openness and transparency" then that's what I'd want to look at. And of course, if there was credit card fraud, that's a crime that needs investigating - though it sounds like one dodgy individual and wouldn't necessarily reflect on the wider functioning of the society. I do think reform is needed, and I'm seeing more promises than action on that front so far, but I don't think this particular article - or the complaints that fuelled it - are the direction of travel I'd want to see.
Miriam

See my blog at http://clinpsyeye.wordpress.com
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