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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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.
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Re: British Psychological Society faces Charity Commission probe

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Spatch wrote: Tue Apr 27, 2021 12:54 pm
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.
I agree with this, and wrote a couple of careful paragraphs which I then deleted. I think there are multiple valid viewpoints on these issues and would welcome an open minded and un-oppositional society in which these can be carefully and respectfully discussed and considered.
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Re: British Psychological Society faces Charity Commission probe

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There was an official BPS announcement that the president elect has been expelled from the society for bullying, which he denies. The BPS went straight to an announcement and new election for president and president-elect before his 21 days to appeal had elapsed. Reading between the lines, it sounds like he (?repeatedly) became verbally aggressive when raising concerns he felt were not being addressed - which isn't good, but doesn't mean that his concerns were not legitimate. It leaves the BPS without a CEO (on leave of absence), President (stepped down), vice President (stepped down) or President elect (ousted), and it sounds like several trustees have also left the board.

Meanwhile, the policy mess at the BPS continues to expand, with their latest proposals for reforming the membership categories, and opening to anyone who uses psychology, not just psychologists.

If, like me, you think the BPS's endorsement of harmful "psychologists" and courses, and their tendency to lend credibility to quacks was bad enough, they now propose "The BPS should be open for everyone who uses psychology in their work, not just psychology professionals". There are also plans to widen chartership to those who use psychology but don't have qualifications. "Every one of our members should always feel like they’re valued and recognised by the BPS. No type of BPS membership should be any better than any other". An Associate Fellow/Fellow will now be a membership grade given to people of any profession who have done committee work for the BPS, academic work, or various other things. They've entirely detached from there being such a thing as a practitioner psychologist. I find this very worrying. I think the BPS has always struggled to represent the fact that there are properly qualified psychologists when offering other grades of membership, and has allowed very harmful people to use them for credibility. Opening the doors wider will compound this. I get wanting to broaden membership to IAPT & have associate members in other professions. But this is final step into pretending there is no such thing as regulated practitioner psychologist groups trained to doctoral level, with higher levels of skill & public protection.

I am worried that opening the doors wider without resolving the issue about legitimising potentially harmful individuals will increase the risks to the public, who (given the way psychology is regulated) find it hard to differentiate a properly regulated professional (practitioner psychologist) from someone calling themselves a psychologist who doesn't fall within regulatory frameworks or stick within the limits of their own competence. In particular, I have long raised concerns about "celebrity psychologists" who opine on the royal family, or mask-wearing or brand children "future criminals" without any expertise on these subjects, or any qualifications/regulation.

I'm not saying this to be protectionist or elitist. I'm all in favour of "giving psychology away" to as many professionals as possible, and ensuring that people have access to a wide variety of support systems. But I think there needs to be a regulatory framework to protect the public, and the wider the BPS open their doors the more careful they need to be to ensure the public understand who is a regulated psychologist, who is another professional drawing on psychology knowledge, and who is potentially unqualified, unsupervised, and unregulated but calling themselves a therapist or psychologist, and charging and/or offering advice to vulnerable people who think member-of-BPS equals qualified-and-regulated-psychologist.
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Re: British Psychological Society faces Charity Commission probe

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And still more of this mess has been exposed on twitter. It seems, according to David Murphy's resignation letter, that BPS spending on staff has risen 73% since 2018, with most of this being salary increases for senior staff - some of whom are being paid whilst on extended leave, without any public explanation for the reason for the leave. The salary bill alone now exceeds the income from membership - which may be the motivation behind the grand expansion plans I previously posted about. No wonder the trustees are leaving and the elected posts are stepping down!

Finally, I recently discovered that the BPS had published guidelines in 2008 (revised in 2010) that legitimise the concept of false memory, insist that only academics and not clinicians can give expert opinion on the veracity of memories, and undermine the ability of victims of abuse to give evidence about their experiences that will ensure perpetrators receive appropriate consequences. It seems from comments on the Psychologist website that subsequent working groups to revise the guidelines have been disbanded, and the BPS has been unable/unwilling to reconcile the discrepancies of opinion and evidence around the issue in order to even comment on the quality, validity or applicability of the prior publication (or the exclusion of clinical expertise from the picture, or definitions of expertise on the topic), though it has dropped access to it from the BPS website. Some posts suggest there are associations between members of the group that wrote the 2008 guidelines and organisations that contained abuse perpetrators and/or (intentionally or otherwise) serve towards undermining testimony of victims.

I'm not a memory expert, but the concept of false memories and the related amplification of the risk of false allegations of abuse is something we should all care about, because so much distress is underpinned by trauma.

As someone who has worked with survivors of trauma I can only say that traumatic memories can be squashed out of daily thoughts as a means to survive and get on with life, that I've heard - and believed - very credible disclosures that have had long time delays before the victim was able/willing to speak about what happened to them, and that therapy can often help people to scaffold their coping mechanisms enough to allow such memories to surface and be processed. For this reason, and the knowledge gained by the many cases in which multiple victims of famous perpetrators such as Saville, Weinstein, Spacey, Epstein, Cosby and US gymnastics coach Nassar, it is important that we recognise that it can take time and support for victims to come forward and tell their story, and that disclosures after delay and/or therapy are not only very common but no less plausible than those made at the time of the offences. We also know that trauma profoundly affects the brain and body neurochemistry for many years and probably the whole lifespan, and that for many people past traumas affect how they cope with new traumas (and other challenges in life). We also need to remember the incredibly low rate of false allegations, and the fact that very few false allegations are credible to experts, or corroborated by multiple victims or other evidence. Our role as psychologists is to support those in distress, and whilst there are academic findings about memory in non-traumatised people that are important to consider when looking at the topic of the veracity of evidence, we also need to reflect other sources of knowledge. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we must ensure that any document we publish does no harm, and that we hold paramount the needs of victims - especially where they are children or vulnerable people.
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Re: British Psychological Society faces Charity Commission probe

Post by lakeland »

Related to Miriam's last post, the Crown Prosecution have updated their pre-trial therapy guidance (2020), which was last reviewed in 2001 and was heavily influenced then by the BPS mid 1990s work on false memories. Thankfully the new guidance isn't and is far more trauma-informed. Interestingly, it looks like the BPS weren't involved at all in the development of the new guidance, from a glance at the acknowledgements, though lots of Clinical Psychologists were.

Link here
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Re: British Psychological Society faces Charity Commission probe

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lakeland wrote: Mon May 24, 2021 10:42 am Related to Miriam's last post, the Crown Prosecution have updated their pre-trial therapy guidance (2020), which was last reviewed in 2001 and was heavily influenced then by the BPS mid 1990s work on false memories. Thankfully the new guidance isn't and is far more trauma-informed. Interestingly, it looks like the BPS weren't involved at all in the development of the new guidance, from a glance at the acknowledgements, though lots of Clinical Psychologists were.

Link here
That's good to see, thanks for posting.
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Re: British Psychological Society faces Charity Commission probe

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This is all really disturbing.

I am currently a BPS/DCP full member (also ACP member and HCPC registered), and in light of this maybe I need to reconsider my membership. Is anyone else thinking of not renewing?
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Re: British Psychological Society faces Charity Commission probe

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I think it is all really good to support ACP but we also need to be mindful that it is BPS that grants GBC and accredites courses (both undergrad and professional doctorates). BPS is the representative body of psychology in the international arena. I have been looking around international organisation webpages (for example EuroPsy: https://www.europsy.eu/national-requirements-uk) and no one mentions ACP, because they are not a representative body. I don't think washing our hands off the BPS would be effective. And as Miriam pointed out, they are trying to fill the gaps left by psychology graduates with non psychology graduates.
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Re: British Psychological Society faces Charity Commission probe

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reishi wrote: Tue May 25, 2021 12:53 pm I think it is all really good to support ACP but we also need to be mindful that it is BPS that grants GBC and accredites courses (both undergrad and professional doctorates). BPS is the representative body of psychology in the international arena. I have been looking around international organisation webpages (for example EuroPsy: https://www.europsy.eu/national-requirements-uk) and no one mentions ACP, because they are not a representative body. I don't think washing our hands off the BPS would be effective. And as Miriam pointed out, they are trying to fill the gaps left by psychology graduates with non psychology graduates.
So must everything continue the way it is currently arranged? That seems a circular argument to me.

The BPS formerly regulated practitioner psychologists and now they don't. The function was delegated to the HCPC instead. Similarly, if the BPS no longer accredited university courses another body would simply fill that role. Note that the review of the clinical doctorate courses is currently completed by a joint HCPC and BPS panel rather than by the BPS alone. If the BPS were no longer willing or permitted to complete that function I suggest that the professional members of course review panels would still be assembled either solely via HCPC nominations or in concert with some other bodies like the ACP. If the BPS stopped being a representative body for clinical/practitioner psychologists Europsy and others would simply update their websites (which currently report the mixed HCPC/BPS structure).
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Re: British Psychological Society faces Charity Commission probe

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So must everything continue the way it is currently arranged?
Absolutely not.
I believe that due to BPS's representative function, it is even more important to push changes in BPS. And if it is not working, to contribute to create/enforce other representative bodies including ACP. My point was, simply walking away while leaving the representative function in BPS's hands wouldn't suffice.
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Re: British Psychological Society faces Charity Commission probe

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Spatch wrote: Tue May 25, 2021 8:27 am This is all really disturbing.

I am currently a BPS/DCP full member (also ACP member and HCPC registered), and in light of this maybe I need to reconsider my membership. Is anyone else thinking of not renewing?
I suspended my membership over a year ago over a range of concerns I highlighted at the time, and confirmed a month or so ago that I did not feel my concerns had been addressed, and left permanently. Quite a few people I speak to regularly on Twitter have done likewise.

As to "the BPS are the official representation of psychologists", I'm with Alex on this. People have tried to make changes from the inside for at least 5 years (it was Jamie Hacker-Hughes whole campaign that led to his election in 2016), and the problems in the BPS appear worse now than they ever were. People elected to make change have been unable to do so, and others have stepped down due to their impotence to prevent serious concerns from continuing. The structure just doesn't work, and appears rotten in the core.

The BPS are involved in things because historically they were the first/only body for psychologists, they had the most relevant journals, conferences and training events, and they were our regulator. However the regulator role is now with the HCPC, and the ACP has started to offer an alternative (and perhaps better) option for CPs - and they aren't just some tiny startup, they've already got a sizable membership (I think they already represent about half the number of CPs who are in the BPS, but maybe more as they continue to grow whilst the CP membership of the BPS is shrinking over time). I think in time the BPS will become the body for academics, students and those interested in psychology, whilst the ACP will be the body for practitioner clinical psychologists. The ACP is already putting out policy documents and responding to topical issues in a more responsive way than the BPS ever has, they are much more active on sociopolitical issues and they are leading/equally involved in the consultant grade National Assessor scheme. There are a lot of senior CPs involved in the ACP, including many who have led clinical courses and been involved with the BPS at the highest levels, so I can easily see a future where they validate the doctoral training programmes, and contribute to the HCPC standards (and help to investigate complaints about practitioner CPs). Joining into the international networks of psychologists and linking to the the national lead for psychology that advises government are likely future steps and probably discussions are already underway.
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Re: British Psychological Society faces Charity Commission probe

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I asked Mike Wang, chair of the ACP, about this. He said
We are indeed interested in developing an accreditation role. We are working closely with the Group of Trainers in Clinical Psychology who are collectively unhappy with the BPS as the present host for GTiCP. We are also developing an international profile and are in contact with overseas professional bodies and groups.

Our present membership is 1,200 and growing fast. We have grown numerically since the beginning of 2021 at a greater rate than ever before.
We are less than four years old so this represents a remarkable rate of progress. We are planning to reach out to APs and other graduates who are interested in a career in clinical psychology, and would appreciate your help with this.

We are also in dialogue with HCPC about our concerns regarding poor scrutiny of overseas clinical applicants and also the absence of protection for the title "psychologist".
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