My flexi-placement: The Department of Health and Social Care; Offender Health and High Secure Services Team, Mental Health Policy

Posted by: Amy Richards - Posted on:

My experience

Having spent the past year working in a Mental Health Provider Trust, I was extremely excited to see a placement offer at the Department of Health within the Offender Health and High Secure Services team in Mental Health Policy, as my main interests lie within mental health and I have a degree in Law and Criminology. I have learnt more about how the healthcare system works within the criminal justice sector and am currently working on a consultation regarding the 3 high-security hospitals in the UK, a high-profile area of policy work.

My first few weeks consisted of compiling the data and the information received from the online consultation and the stakeholder events that had happened before my arrival and preparing for the meeting with the Expert Reference Panel, which included security directors from the hospitals, NHS England specialised commissioning and CQC. I have helped with research for a question from the Prime Minister and created a paper regarding the contentious issue that is night time confinement of patients. My final task before I leave next week is to draft the government response to the public consultation; a document that will be published next year.

It’s been really interesting to get an insight into what a policy team does, but the highlight for me so far has been volunteering at the Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit and hearing Matt Hancock and Simon Stevens speak about the next steps in the global mental health arena; an amazing opportunity.

Choosing your flexi

I was excited from the moment the scheme began about this two month ‘flexi-placement’ that we were able to go on at the end of our first year on the scheme and starting thinking about potential options around January time. It is overwhelming to be told you can go anywhere for two months, so narrowing down your options to begin with is definitely a good idea! I narrowed mine down to South Yorkshire Police, South Yorkshire Housing Association and the Department of Health and Social Care. It turned out to be very difficult to facilitate a two-month placement within a police force and the security clearance I would have had to go through seemed like a lot of hassle. I had also worked on a big project with the police throughout the past year which I felt had enabled me to gain insight into their culture and ways of working. I had introductory meetings with a Director at South Yorkshire Housing Association, an amazing organisation based in Sheffield. The reason I chose not to go with them was that it would mean me staying in Sheffield (and with both my substantial placements being based in Sheffield, I felt I should tread further afield) and that housing is very closely associated mental health and I wanted to experience something completely different. And that is partly how I ended up in Quarry House in Leeds. The Department of Health and Social Care offer ‘centrally organised’ flexi-placements which will be advertised on GENI. If one of them takes your fancy, get in touch with the placement lead/contact to find out some more about it. Spending two months in a government department is a chance you are unlikely to get again.


As it comes to my final week I suddenly have a lot to do! There have been times during the placement I haven’t felt that busy or challenged, but that is the difficulty of a 2-month placement as it is very hard to create a very specific job role or project that spans exactly 8 weeks.

Just as a side note for anyone that may be worrying about it – I have found the scheme and the Department very accommodating in terms of placement start and end times, annual leave and 3-day EGA residential being placed in the middle of it.

I think experiencing the world of government and health policy is a fantastic opportunity for someone who wants to work in a provider in the future, as you gain an understanding of the governmental body which you can feel very far away from working on the front line in providers. I suggested that members of the Department would benefit from placements in NHS providers and was pleased to learn of a ‘connecting’ scheme, where staff member go on learning visits to the front line.

 Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter @Richards__Amy

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