The PWP Course Accreditation Process

Information about the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies scheme, the different roles, training courses, professional bodies and the KSF requirements.
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The PWP Course Accreditation Process

Post by baa »


I started working as a PWP in October 2009 and attended university (Postgraduate Certificate in Low-Intensity Psychological Therapies). My course leader asked me in April 2010 if I would like to be a member of the ‘IAPT PWP Course Accreditation Team’. I thought it sounded like an interesting and exciting thing to be part of and said yes immediately!


This team was put together by IAPT and the BPS, with the process organised at the University of Exeter. The reason for the process was to assess the quality of the PWP training courses at the various universities around the country. As these courses are training people to assess and carry out interventions with patients, this process is indeed a very important one and important that they are following the IAPT curriculum and doing things in the right way, for the good of patients and trainees.

There were a number of universities that had to be assessed, so I obviously could not be on the team for every one, otherwise my service may not have been too happy! I accepted an invitation to be on the team visiting three universities, with other PWPs being on the team for the other university visits.


Prior to each visit, I was sent a very large A4 lever arch folder, which contained all of the course information. I then had to read through all of their information (which included information such as - how they recruited, how they assess trainees, staff on the course, course materials and resources, etc.) and make notes about what I thought was good practice and areas which I thought needed further questioning during the assessment visit.

The IAPT Lead would then compile a scrutiny report and send it to the institution. “The report would outline any specific discussion points to be pursued during the visit; aspects of the programme that (on the basis of the documentary evidence) appeared to be operating at variance from the accreditation criteria, and the action that needed to be taken to resolve this; and any additional evidence that was needed to be submitted ahead of the visit.” (BPS, 2009, p. 7).

The PWP course leader would then normally respond to the initial scrutiny report, detailing what additional (if needed) resources would be available to view (during the visit) and any changes they had made because of the comments in the report.

The courses were also asked to provide a sample of their competency exams (Observed Clinical Structured Examinations – OSCE), assessment and intervention assessments. These were viewed by the IAPT Implementation Lead to see if they met the IAPT criteria.


Then it would be time for the “on-site visit by the review team to the education provider to meet with key stakeholder groups and evaluate the course’s achievement of the required quality standards” (BPS, 2009, p. 4). I would head up the afternoon before the visit to meet my fellow team members at a hotel close to the university being assessed. The hotels were nice! The team normally consisted of:

- IAPT Implementation Lead/Chair
- PWP Trainer
- PWP/PWP Trainee
- Quality Assurance Officer (either from the BPS or BABCP)

We would start with a meeting and agree on areas which needed questioning/further exploration and how we would go about this. Then it was dinner and drinks! Everything paid for by the BPS, so that was nice! It was also a really good chance to chat with people who you might not normally get a chance to chat to. I learnt a lot about new initiatives and new research that will be coming out, through my conversations with the IAPT Lead and other team members.

After a nice breakfast we would make our way to the university in question and the day would normally pan out like this:

- Initial brief meeting with course leaders
- Meeting with course leaders and course team
- Meeting with past and present trainees
- Meeting with university managers (e.g. faculty director)
- Meeting with service supervisors and clinical leads
- Meeting with IAPT regional lead (from the SHA)
- Private meeting of accreditation team (to review findings)
- Feedback and discussion with course team and other

Each team member got a chance to chair a different part of the day; for example, I chaired the session with the trainees, though other members could chip in if they felt they needed to. The quality assurance (QA) officer was there to check that we were carrying out the process correctly. The IAPT Lead told me that if we were doing our job well and questioning about the correct areas, then the QA officer would be quiet, they were quiet on all of my visits, so myself and the rest of the team must have been asking good questions!

I cannot go through everything we were looking for, but I’ll give you an idea. The courses should be following the IAPT curriculum and if they were not, then we were asking why! The following areas are seen to be important:

Selection and Recruitment

It was important that there were course representatives on trainee’s interview panels and we would question staff and trainees about this. It was also important that universities offered both an undergraduate and postgraduate route, with attrition rates a key area in IAPT at present.

Course Design

Checking to see if the course had the correct module structure and incorporated all of the IAPT learning outcomes and assessments.

It was also very important to see how the course structured the amount of taught days. There are supposed to be 25 taught days in university and 20 days supervised learning in the workplace, which should be directed by the university (often not directed closely enough by the education providers, but hopefully they will after advice given by us!).

Course Management and Resources

This would focus on what is available to students (resources) and mechanisms and policies put in place to help trainees e.g. was feedback acted upon?

Teaching and Learning

We checked to see what was being taught in lectures and to see if they taught everything that was in the IAPT curriculum e.g. behavioural activation. Also, checking to see what other learning avenues there were e.g. specialist speakers, regional conferences set up, etc.

An important area of investigation (asking staff and students) was how much time they got with skills practice (i.e. role play). There should really be a 50-50 split between academic learning and clinical skills practice. It was also important to check whether students were being observed (all the way through on at least two occasions) when practicing.


The team would check to see if trainees received supervision (if so, what type and how much) and what information supervisors were given by the training provider; also, if supervisor training was available. This is where meeting with supervisors was important as we could get their views on this as well as information from course staff.

Feedback to Training Providers

After a long and busy day we would provide feedback (after our team discussion) to the institution. We would praise them on good practice and inform them about possible conditions and recommendations. Conditions are things which the education providers have to put in place, recommendations are up to them.


A report would then be sent to the university for them to check for factual accuracy. Then it is discussed by OGAIT (Oversight Group for the Accreditation of IAPT Trainings), which is made up of various people from IAPT and the BPS and a decision is made. Then a report is sent to the institution. They could be given the following decisions:

Accredited: ‘The course meets the required quality standards in full. Where conditions of accreditation are set, OGAIT is confident that the course will implement the specified action within the timescale agreed, and will award accreditation once that has been confirmed.’ (BPS, 2009, p. 9).

Accreditation declined: “The course is operating at substantial variation from the required quality standards, and significant action is required to rectify this position. The programme will not be reconsidered for accreditation until satisfactory evidence of quality improvement has been provided. “ (BPS, 2009, p. 9).


Accreditation is awarded up to a maximum of 5 years (subject to meeting any conditions), but there is annual monitoring. Each year, courses have to compile a report for OGAIT stating if there have been any changes made to the course or if there is any changes to be made.

Reaccreditation visits would normally take place during the last year of the accreditation period, although this can be brought forward if during annual monitoring something sticks out, which appears to need investigating.


It is obviously in a trainees best interests to attend an accredited university, as if they have not, then the PWP is not able to attain accreditation through a professional body. If a person has attended a university which has not received accreditation then they have to attend ‘top-up training’, which should be provided by the SHA. The extra training will then allow the PWP to gain accreditation from a professional body.

If a PWP has attended a training provider (university) that has been accredited, then they are entitled to apply for accreditation with a professional body. The BABCP are currently carrying this out and you may be able to become accredited by the BPS, but not as of yet. The BABCP requires a PWP to meet seven criteria. The criteria which must be met and guidelines on the process are available at:

There is various evidence you have to collect, so it is worthwhile getting into good habits e.g. recording supervision hours, etc.

I think it is worthwhile checking out if the university you will be/are/ attending or have attended is accredited and if not what is being done to ‘top up’ your training.

Anyway, best of luck with training and the accreditation process!


The British Psychological Society. (2009). IAPT - Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner Training: Accreditation Handbook. Leicester: The British Psychological Society.[/quote]

Written by Mikel Arteta
At least I'm not as mad as that one!
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