Approved mental health professionals (AMHPs) are trained to implement elements of the Mental Health Act 1983, as amended by the Mental Health Act 2007, in conjunction with medical practitioners. They have received specific training at least at Level 7 on the National Qualifications Framework, such as a MSc Mental Health (AHMP) or PGDip in Mental Health Studies relating to the application of the Mental Health Acts, usually lasting one or two years and perform the pivotal role in assessing and deciding whether there are grounds to detain people who meet the statutory criteria. The AMHP is also an important healthcare professional when making decisions under guardianship or community treatment orders.
Although in the past an AMHP could only be a social worker the role has been broadened so that community psychiatric or learning disability nurses, occupational therapists and psychologists can also train to be an AMHP.
Assessment and detention under the Act is colloquially known as being ‘sectioned’, or ‘sectioning’, in reference to the application of sections of the Mental Health Act relevant to this process. The role to apply for the ‘section’ remains with the AMHP, not the medical doctor, as many professionals and lay individuals think, thus a doctor may feel a section is needed, although it is actually the AMHP who is the individual who will decide if this is required after detailed assessment and consultations with the individual involved and the medical doctors.