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Professions Supplementary To Medicine (Arts Therapists Board) Order Of Council 1997

Volume 578: debated on Thursday 6 March 1997

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7.2 p.m.

rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 6th February be approved [12th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the order before your Lordships creates an Arts Therapists Board under the Professions Supplementary to Medicine Act 1960. Arts therapists are specialist practitioners who use techniques to help clients with severe communication problems through painting, drama, music and other arts. The broad effect of the order is to extend the 1960 Act to include arts therapists along with chiropodists, dietitians, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, orthoptists, medical laboratory scientific officers, radiographers, and, as of this month, prosthetists and orthotists.

The board's function will be to promote high standards of professional education and conduct, within the umbrella of the Council for Professions Supplementary to Medicine (CPSM) whose duty it is to co-ordinate and supervise the activities of all the boards. The board's main duties are to prepare and maintain a register; approve training courses leading to state registration and the institutions providing them; determine applications for admission to the register on the basis of qualifications and experience acquired either in the UK or elsewhere; and to set up investigation and disciplinary committees to produce guidance on conduct and deal with individual cases of misconduct.

Practitioners who are registered by the board will be entitled to call themselves "state registered arts therapists". The use of that title by a person who is not registered will be an offence, as will the use of any title or description which falsely implies that he or she is registered under the 1960 Act.

The Act requires that the board should have a majority of members from the professions concerned. It is proposed to have 17 members appointed by the CPSM, of whom nine will be nominated by the profession in the first instance and thereafter elected by registrants. Of the remaining members, three will be doctors nominated by the Scottish and English royal colleges and one will be an expert in professional education; two will represent the interests of employers; one will represent the interests of patients and carers; and one will be from the health or social care professions other than medicine or the professions regulated under the Act. Neither patients nor employers have hitherto had a voice on boards. The creation of this board, and the recently approved Prosthetists and Orthotists Board, offers a good opportunity to fill that significant gap.

The size of the CPSM itself will also increase from 24 to 27 because the Act requires that all boards have a professional representative on council and that the number of medical and professional members should be equal. The third "lay" member preserves the balance of representation between professional, medical and other members.

The Act does not require the profession to do more than satisfy the CPSM, the Privy Council, and your Lordships' House that it is a profession supplementary to medicine. The underlying intention is, however, clearly to afford the public a degree of protection that it would not otherwise have.

Arts therapists comprise a small, highly specialised group—about 1,500 practitioners in the UK. All were originally hospital-based, but now increasingly work in the community, general practice, education, social services and prisons, generally in the mental health field. Only a minority (about 30 per cent.) are directly employed in the NHS, although practitioners in other sectors accept referrals of NHS patients.

The profession combines the three disciplines of art, music and drama. All share common approaches to training and practice, but vary in the medium used. All combine artistic proficiency with psychotherapeutic techniques to enable patients with severe communication problems to express feelings which might otherwise remain unexpressed—in short, to promote self-esteem and personal growth through self-awareness. Patients typically include profoundly damaged people who may be beyond the reach of other therapies—child victims and adult survivors—and indeed perpetrators of sexual, physical and emotional abuse or other trauma; sufferers from acute depression, severe mental illness or behavioural problems, as well as those with progressive or terminal disease. The therapeutic process can be intense and sustained, and the techniques used are powerful and potentially dangerous to both patient and practitioner if mishandled, particularly where the latter is inappropriately trained or motivated. It is for this reason that members of the professions seek and are trained to provide a safe and secure environment in which to help healing.

Admission to professional membership normally entails the possession of a degree in the creative discipline concerned followed by a period of one to three years' relevant work experience in health, education or social services. There follows a postgraduate diploma course of at least one year and mostly two years at an approved higher education institution. This UK model is one that a number of other countries, particularly in Europe, have adopted.

In their practice, arts therapists will often work independently or with limited supervision, but they readily identify themselves as members of multidisciplinary teams accountable to the clinician with overall responsibility. In turn, arts therapy is accepted by other professionals as making a valuable contribution to the treatment of a wide range of disorders. The profession has secured the support of representatives of medicine, nursing, psychology, and of all the groups now covered by the 1960 Act, for this proposal.

Essentially, the case for state registration of arts therapists is that it gives a clear and objective signal to the public and to colleagues making referrals. It ensures the high standards of training, conduct and practice that they can expect. The paramount interest is that of patients and carers who will often be in no position to judge the standing of practitioners. They can be assured that both those falsely claiming those standards, and those falling short of them, will be effectively dealt with. In addition, state registration will provide a benchmark for employers; offer an opportunity to strengthen the collaboration between the health professions; provide a coherent mechanism for dealing with overseas qualified practitioners, including those from the European Economic Area, wishing to exercise the right of freedom of movement; and assist in workforce planning by keeping a continuous record of the pool of qualified practitioners.

This measure, if approved, will provide a scheme of self-regulation at arm's length from government and funded by practitioners themselves. The Government are satisfied that arts therapists (though still a relatively young profession) have sufficiently developed to join the family of mature professions regulated by the CPSM, and I commend the making of this order by the Privy Council.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 6th February be approved [12th Report from the Joint Committee.—(Baroness Cumberlege.)

My Lords, I shall not detain the Minister for very long because I suspect that she may have a more glamorous engagement elsewhere. However, I should like to say a few words of welcome for the measure and to endorse the support that was given to it in another place by my honourable friend, Mr. Mark Fisher.

Although limited, this is an extremely important measure which recognises the valuable work of a small group of practitioners both within and outside the National Health Service. The Arts Therapists Board will be extremely important, not only in terms of recognising, promoting and monitoring the role of those already working in this area in music, drama or art therapy, but also, I hope, in promoting in a broader sphere the role of art within healing. In the past many of us who have worked within the health service have not sufficiently appreciated the effect of art on patients and their healthcare. Art is important whether it is in the form of design, artwork or music and it can play an important and beneficial role in healthcare establishments.

I emphasise my support for the work of art therapists—and not only in health service institutions—because one of my most moving experiences as the chairman of a hospital trust was the day when various women prisoners from Holloway donated to the hospital the works of art that they had chosen to produce to thank the hospital for the care it had given them. Under the auspices of the education department in Holloway, they had produced some wonderful work. It was extremely encouraging to hear those women talk about the importance of being able to do something creative and put something back into society. That made one feel that there were some ways in which prison could be made a positive experience.

I hope very much that the board will act not only to ensure high professional standards among art therapists, but also to research and to promote a wider understanding among the public of the healing qualities that art can have.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her support for the measure which I am sure will be widely welcomed among art therapists. The order will also do a great deal to protect the public. I endorse the views expressed by the noble Baroness about the role of the arts in hospital and in healing. We know that healing is a science, but I think that it is also an art. I commend the order.

On Question, Motion agreed to.