NHS trust advertises clinical post as unpaid internship

Working for nothing, it seems, is the new having a job. There’s currently an advert on the NHS Jobs website for an “honorary assistant psychologist”, for which the pay scheme is euphemistically described as “other”. [Hat tip: @DrPhilHammond]

We are seeking an enthusiastic and committed individual to join a community service within the Addictions & Offender Care Directorate. You will be based in a Substance Misuse team, a multi-disciplinary team, under the supervision of a Clinical Psychologist. You will need to be able to commit to working in an honorary capacity for at least two days per week for at least 6 months. We would look favourably on individuals who can make a greater commitment.

You must be willing to work with individuals with substance misuse problems, many of whom also have complex mental health needs. You must possess the relevant skills and attributes to facilitate service users to engage in the service. You must have a strong commitment to teamwork and be able to work sensitively within a culturally diverse environment.

The successful applicant will possess a degree in psychology, and be eligible for Graduate Basis for Registration with the British Psychological Society.

We offer regular, high quality, clinical supervision and strong professional support. The psychology department has close links with UCL, UEL and Royal Holloway DClinPsych courses.

Please Note: These are UNPAID positions.

Oh Lord, is this how it begins? The world of unpaid internships, sorry, “honorary” posts migrating over from business and the media into actual clinical roles in the NHS?

It’s perhaps unsurprising that it’s an assistant psychologist post that seems to have attracted this method. There’s lots of keen, bright psychology graduates out there desperately scrabbling about for a few jobs as assistant psychologists, which they hope in turn will make them more appointable to the fiercely competitive doctorate programmes in clinical psychology. Plenty of the nursing assistants and support workers I’ve worked with in mental health are psychology grads trying to get relevant experience. Quite a few of them eventually give up, and go back to university to train as mental health nurses.

In other words, a field where you’ve got a good chance of finding someone of sufficient quality who’ll do it for free.

No doubt it’ll save Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust a bit of cash, but it’s yet another kick in the teeth for social mobility. There’s going to be a lot of psychology graduates who won’t be able to apply for this – not because they aren’t good enough, but because they can’t afford to take two days off a week from stacking shelves at Poundland.  If this turns out to be the shape of things to come, this could be yet another deepening of class divisions where a whole slew of top jobs are simply closed off to everyone except the offspring of the wealthy. Welcome to the new aristocracy.

6 thoughts on “NHS trust advertises clinical post as unpaid internship

  1. This infuriates me.

  2. This sort of thing has been happening in the Arts since time immemorial, as anyone who has been waited upon in Trendy Restaurant by a show-off, “resting” ack-taw or by svelte Fiona who works part-time without pay at The Significant Gallery of Contemporary Art over the road can testify. I had to do it myself, although people do not normally consider me to be svelte.

    In health care professions in the Republic of Ireland, including nursing, after passing the course trainees have to complete a further year as an intern on 3/5 pay before they can be registered.

    🙂 😦

  3. This is incredibly common – as a psychology student (just graduated) I’ve kept an eye on AP jobs for the past few years, and have watched them pop up and proliferate. I recently got an email from a service saying “sorry, your application for a paid job was unsuccessful, but why not apply for an unpaid post!”. More positively, though, The Psychologist (BPS magazine) published a letter that I wrote to them chastising them for advertising the posts a couple of issues ago, and the response has been huge – they’ve published about 10 responses since, the majority of which agreed with me that these posts are an incredibly bad thing for clinical psychology, which already has a diversity problem, if the only people who can get enough experience to apply for DClinPsychs are those who can afford to work for free. Hopefully this has at least started a debate within British psychology, and I’ve been delighted to see some of these posts getting some outraged media attention (such as the Anna Freud/UCL post recently). Of course, someone did respond to tell me that I’ll never be a psychologist with an attitude like that, but there you go….

  4. This is just plain shocking, not only because of the class / socio-economic issues but also the clinical area in which it is starting. There is already a huge issue in substance misuse in terms of the peer support and other volunteer roles that have sprung up within the recovery capital models – not that these are bad, they aren’t, but they haven’t been properly supported and have basically been used to prop up the workforce in some areas, and now we’ve doing it again, low cost workforce for a client group that nobody really pays attention to!

    • I started out 10 years ago trying to get my fist paid assistant post but stuggled and therefore took an unpaid assistant post two days a week which eventually led to a paid position after 8 months. It is not fair that people have to give their time for free I agree. However, given the demand for paid assistant posts and the ever increasing number of psychology graduates who want to go onto to train as clinical psychologists, sadly this is the way some people have to go to get to where they want to be. Also, the NHS is in such dire straights and the profession of psychology is taking a bit hit. This has resulted in long waiting lists which are so long because of the lack of funding for more paid psychology positions. This often leads to trusts deciding to advertise for these volunteer posts in order to help the professionals in post who don’t have a cats hell in chance of getting commissioners to cough up for funding more paid assistant jobs.

      I stuck it out and qualified this year as a clinical psychologist.

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