Realising Potential our own and others

Report from the National Allied Health Professional Mental Health LeadsGroup on Implementation of the Action Plan 2010-2011


Realising Potential,[1] the action plan for allied health professionals (AHPs) in mental health, was launched in June 2010, bringing together for the first time the work of AHPs in mental health in partnership with service users and carers, professional organisations and NHS boards.

It takes its place amidst a raft of policy and legislative initiatives seeking to improve support for people with mental health problems in Scotland, including the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 and the Equalities Act 2010, Scotland's National Dementia Strategy[2] and Rights, Relationships and Recovery,[3] the review and action plan for mental health nursing in Scotland. It also strongly reflects the central tenet of the Healthcare Quality Strategy for NHSScotland,[4] which is to provide care that is safe, effective and person-centred.

This policy drive continues to develop in Scotland, and a national consultation on the mental health strategy 2011−2015 and the development of a national AHP delivery plan have now commenced.

The three-year Realising Potential action plan provides a blueprint for maximising the AHP contribution to supporting people with mental health problems of all ages, both within mental health services and in mainstream settings, and acknowledges the contribution of all AHPs to improving mental health and well-being regardless of the service setting. It provides strategic direction for AHPs in mental health and is designed to promote their contribution to the modernisation of mental health services in Scotland.

The action plan's primary aims are to:

  • enhance timely access to AHP services for service users and carers
  • explore and develop the concept of supported self-management for service users and carers
  • promote recovery and strengths-based approaches
  • develop partnerships with service users and carers, other disciplines and agencies
  • provide leadership for change
  • develop the evidence base for practice
  • promote mental health and well-being among the population.

Realising Potential doesn't ask AHPs to do extra. It asks AHPs to do differently. It is about focusing the diverse talents and competencies of the allied health professions on the needs of people with mental health problems and their carers. It is about harnessing AHPs' creativity and energy and focusing them on meeting individual needs across the spectrum of service delivery, from facilitating early access to services, to supporting self-management, to providing specific interventions such as psychological therapies and vocational rehabilitation. In essence, it attempts to understand the entire journey a person and his or her carers make through mental health services and to identify at which points AHPs can make the most meaningful contributions not only to alleviate symptoms and distress, but also to promote well-being and mental health improvement for individuals. Examples of how AHPs are achieving these aspirations can be found in the DVD produced by Mindzmatter ( that accompanies Realising Potential.[5]

Central to the impact Realising Potential will have is leadership. Each territorial NHS board now has a defined AHP mental health clinical lead in place to provide coordination and direction to the AHP contribution to mental health services. But leaders are now emerging throughout the AHP ranks; these are individuals with the vision and determination to ensure that people accessing their services receive the very best.

It's important to remember that we are just half-way through the action plan, and there are still 18 months to go. But we are seeing progress, some of it significant, and it is this progress that we have attempted to showcase here. As the following pages of this report from the National AHP Mental Health Clinical Leads' Group (see Annex 1) show, the first year of the Realising Potential action plan delivered results, and we are seeing those results sustained as we move through year two. AHPs in mental health are working in challenging environments, particularly at a time of significant financial pressures for NHS boards, and individual boards are taking differing approaches to supporting the delivery of the action plan. But Realising Potential is proving sufficiently flexible to be incorporated within local redesign programmes: the action plan reflects the diversity and flexibility of AHPs, who bring an enormous range of skills, experience and perspectives to providing ongoing support for people with mental health problems and their carers.

We focus on five specific areas of activity in this report:

  • early intervention and timely access for service users and carers
  • supported self-management and recovery
  • designing and delivering psychological interventions in mental health
  • integrating vocational rehabilitation
  • support for change - making it happen.

Each is briefly considered, with some examples from practice of how AHPs are addressing the challenges posed by the action plan in these areas and delivering benefits for service users and carers. We close by exploring where we go next as Realising Potential approaches its third year.

One of the most encouraging elements to arise from this exploration of Realising Potential's initial progress is the realisation that good practice developed in one area is now being replicated in others, supported by the efforts of the clinical leads' group. For all the examples from individual NHS boards we show in this report, there will be similar examples in boards all over Scotland.

It is early days, and significant challenges confront the delivery of the entire Realising Potential action plan, but much has already been achieved through strong and committed leadership, partnership working with nursing colleagues and stakeholder organisations such as Alzheimer Scotland and Support in Mind, and the enthusiasm of AHPs to take advantage of the opportunities Realising Potential brings to improve services. Their achievements give us a solid foundation for optimism about what years two and three will hold.

Elaine Hunter
AHP Adviser in Mental Health, Scottish Government


Email: Elaine Hunter

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