HL Deb 27 March 1995 vol 562 cc1399-401

The Lord Bishop of Worcester asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether, in setting up the lead body to develop national vocational qualifications in psychotherapy, they will consult the British Confederation of Psychotherapists.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, the British Confederation of Psychotherapists was consulted in setting up the lead body, Advice Guidance and Counselling and Psychotherapy, but has chosen not to participate since the spring of 1994. Work on national vocational qualifications for psychotherapists is at an early stage and the confederation will be consulted at every stage of development.

The Lord Bishop of Worcester

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Is he aware that the Conference of Psychoanalytical Psychotherapists was of the opinion that a deeper and more far reaching discussion was needed? Is he further aware that in February 1995 the Department of Employment declared that it wanted to see higher standards—and this is a matter of standards—in national vocational qualifications and to collaborate with all those who want to see those higher standards? Will the Minister reassure the House that the Conference of Psychoanalytical Psychotherapists will be brought into any further dialogue, in view of the fact that it includes the Tavistock Clinic, the Portman Clinic and the 10 most senior psychoanalytical psychotherapist bodies?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate is right about the Department of Employment's plans and aspirations for higher level vocational qualifications. It is open at any time for the British Confederation of Psychotherapists to participate in the work that has been carried out. The Department of Employment and the lead body would be most pleased if that were to happen.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, are those at the Tavistock Clinic being consulted? I recently received a letter from them indicating their grave anxieties. They point out that psychotherapy, concerning itself with the complexity of human emotions and motivation, is singularly unsuitable to be dealt with by mapping occupational competences. In view of the fact that the clinic is a major employer of psychotherapists and the biggest training institution for psychotherapy, will the Minister look at those anxieties most seriously?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, raises an important point. The Tavistock Clinic is an important component in the British Confederation of Psychotherapists. The confederation is dealing with the lead body, but if the noble Baroness wishes to draw to my attention any particular anxieties I should be delighted to receive them and to take the matter forward.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, is the Minister aware that there is anxiety about this issue, which is highly complex? Psychotherapists deal with the abused and the abusers. Therefore, will he tell the House whether he is co-operating fully with the Department of Health and his colleague who is sitting at the end of the Bench?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, I am pleased to be able to confirm that there is close co-operation between the Departments of Health and Employment in respect of this matter. It is true that the whole area of psychotherapy is difficult and complicated.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, while the matter is undoubtedly complex, does the Minister agree that there is some urgency about registration because false memories can be involved, leading to false accusations and some injustices?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, the Government believe that self-regulation is the best answer in the circumstances. Of course, there are instances where something more binding is relevant and that is why the Government are reviewing the Professions Supplementary to Medicine Act. Against that background, one of the reasons why NVQs are valuable is that they provide a yardstick to the public about the knowledge of people who are carrying out activities.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, I believe that the Minister just said that self-regulation may be the answer. However, is he aware of some of the appalling consequences that have taken place in America because of unskilled or badly skilled people in the line of psychotherapy being allowed to run wild? Will the Government do their best to ensure that that does not happen in this country?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, I am sure that we all agree with the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick: we do not want to see that kind of thing happening in this country. However, in reply to the supplementary question from the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, after having said that we felt that self-regulation was the best initial approach, I continued to say that the Professions Supplementary to Medicine Act is being reviewed, and that is obviously something that we shall bear in mind.

The Countess of Mar

My Lords, can the Minister tell the House what is the present route for qualification as a psychotherapist? Further, can he also tell us why it is considered that the essentially modular form of learning which is involved with NVQs is more suitable?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, one of the problems that faces those looking at psychotherapy is that there appears to be no generally recognised qualification. That is one of the reasons for the difficulties as regards the scope of the lead body in the first place. As I understand it, membership of the British Confederation of Psychotherapists requires slightly different membership criteria from the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapists. It is because there is no agreed corpus of knowledge underlying the particular technique, which, as has already been mentioned, is to do with the treatment of the mind, that many such difficulties arise.

Back to