Over the last few years, there have been moves for psychoanalytic practitioners, as well as psychotherapists, counsellors and psychologists, to be regulated pursuant to statute. Under those plans, regulation would have remained in the hands of the professions themselves, though fully backed by statutory powers. The present government was unwilling to sanction this form of regulation. Instead, the Department of Health decreed that practitioners from the professions for the talking therapies should be treated as health professionals, whether practising in the NHS or privately, and directed that regulation shall be by a regulatory agency of the state, viz the Health Professions Council (HPC). Such a form of regulation would override the present regulatory functions of UKCP and BPC, as well as the other voluntary regulatory bodies for the other categories of practitioner referred to above. Regulation of each profession would, as a result, be removed from the professions concerned and all regulatory power would be transferred instead to public servants who are unfamiliar with the nature of the clinical work carried out by, in particular, psychoanalytic practitioners.
However, there was much disquiet amongst many in the psychotherapy and psychoanalytic community over the plans of the HPC, how it intended to regulate the psychotherapies and the consultation process that was carried out (e.g. see Maresfield Report).
Subsequently, six psychoanalytic organisations launched a legal challenge to the HPC’s consultation process and its plans concerning the regulation of the talking therapies.
The culmination of this legal challenge arrived on the 10th of December 2010. Mr. Justice Burton gave the six organisations permission to proceed with what he described as an “important” judicial review challenge to the HPC’s proposals.
This was a momentous day, in which the groups’ barrister Dinah Rose QC argued that the HPC had unlawfully evaded important questions, one of which was whether the HPC itself were fit for purpose, given its focus on measurable outcomes similar to medical style interventions. Mr Justice Burton criticised the misleading nature of the HPC statements, in particular those causing the organisations to be led to believe that the HPC would be considering and reporting to the Department of Health as to whether it should be the regulator, in circumstances where this was apparently never planned or done. In other words, the HPC has not actively questioned whether it can regulate psychoanalytic groups or made much of an effort to consult with these groups.
During the course of the litigation the Department of Health maintained a neutral stance and put plans to introduce legislation on hold to await the Court’s decision. The HPC at the time of the December court hearing had five weeks to file further evidence before the case was listed for a full hearing in the spring. This never occurred as other plans were being formulated for the regulation of psychotherapy.