Ground-breaking first psychology cohort graduates from UCLan

26 July 2022

The first cohort of students on a ground-breaking programme aimed at tackling a shortage of psychological professionals in the NHS have graduated from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

New Associate Psychological Practitioner graduate Rebecca Jarvis.

More than half of the graduating students on the Postgraduate Diploma Associate Psychological Practitioner (PGDip APP) donned their academic caps and gowns and took to UCLan’s graduation stage to receive their unique qualification.

The successful graduates were joined on their special day by members of UCLan staff and senior representatives from the organisations involved in developing this innovative programme.

Led by the Innovation Agency, funded by Health Education England, in partnership with the three Integrated Care Systems in the North West Region, UCLan has played a significant role in delivering the course to people who work in hospitals and community and primary care networks in the North West. Lancashire and South Cumbria Foundation Trust coordinated the recruitment.

The initiative is helping to develop a new and sustainable supply of qualified practitioners into psychological roles and reduce the significant workforce gaps that exist in this area, while providing a much-needed graduate pathway for psychology professionals.

One of the new graduates who studied on the one-year-course is Rebecca Jarvis, from Clitheroe. She already had a first-class master’s degree in Clinical and Health Psychology but had found it incredibly difficult to secure one of the fiercely competitive assistant psychologist or research assistant posts.

During her training, the 25-year-old’s typical week consisted of three days in practice, one day working in the community and one day studying at UCLan.

The new graduate, who is now working four days in practice and one day in the community in Colne, said: “It’s safe to say I have learnt so much – not only about the role, but about myself. I have grown in confidence, resilience and my general wellbeing has improved greatly. This role has propelled me into the world of psychology within the NHS and has opened so many doors for me and my career – I can only imagine where this role will take me!”

Dr Mark Roy, the University’s joint course director, said: “I’m so proud of our first graduating cohort of Postgraduate Diploma Associate Practitioner Psychologists. They have shown that not only is a 12-month educational training programme effective in developing professional and psychological competencies, but that Trainee APPs are highly valued members of the workforce.

“The APPs have now been qualified practitioners for nearly six months, and they are all making a vital contribution across the North West through offering psychological support, improving patient wellbeing and indirectly reducing waiting lists.”

Carole Spencer, Innovation Agency Director of System Partnerships, said: “It is great to have played a part in the success of our collaboration to create this new role, creating a new career entry point into the NHS and offering valuable psychological support to improve wellbeing.”

Dr Miranda Budd, Consultant Clinical Psychologist at LSCFT and Clinical Lead for Trainee APPs, commented: “I feel so proud of all the APPs who have just qualified from the first cohort. I’ve worked closely with the 24 who worked in Primary Care Network settings and they have done a fantastic job. In just nine months, they’ve delivered one-to-one wellbeing sessions to over 1,000 individuals and over 1,200 people attended some of the wellbeing workshops delivered within local communities.”

The second cohort of nearly 90 trainees are currently studying at UCLan and undertaking their roles across Greater Manchester, Lancashire, South Cumbria, Merseyside and Cheshire.

Just ahead of the graduation ceremony, Health Education England has approved funding totalling £1.6 million for the third cohort and plans to go for national accreditation and focus on deployment into Primary Care Services. The course will commence in March 2023.

Clare Baguey, Programme Manager – North West Psychological Professions Network, added: “The NHS Long Term Plan puts the expansion of the psychological professions’ workforce at the frontline of the ambition to significantly increase access to high quality evidence-based mental health care in England.”

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