Peer support is one of the new roles featured in the HEE Star, a tool developed by HEE to support workforce transformation across the NHS. Peer support workers are individuals with priorpersonal experience of health and care services, equipping them with the knowledge and insights often helpful to supporting the recovery of others.
Simon (a mental health service user at Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust) and his brother Phil Hough (who works with him by co-training peer support workers), will be talking about their experiences of peer support and the training from HEE at the Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester this week. In advance of the event, they've shared some thoughts on how shared experience plays a crucial role in supporting mental wellbeing.
Simon became a peer support worker six years ago. One of the clinical services managers at Cheshire and Wirral NHS Foundation Trust had heard about the benefits of peer support and encouraged Simon to use his experience as a service user and become involved.
I undertake ward rounds in a men’s 15-bed low secure forensic unit. The patients can be with us for up twoyears depending on their recovery, and all have complex mental health conditions. I am there to be open as a listener and a sharer, walking alongside service users, not in front of them. I do this on a one-to-one basis and in groups. By being there, I help service users to feel calmer and less tense. They accept me as one of them, and I definitely feel like I belong.
As a peer support worker I see the person first, understand their distress and can offer solutions that I have used myself, such as advising them about self-help and activity groups.
I am fortunate that the Trust sees peer support as integral, not as an add-on, and they give me monthly supervision sessions with a specialist occupational therapist to support my role. We use recovery-focussed supervision and look at what has worked well and things I want to improve. Just as I focus on service users’ person-centred wellbeing, the occupational therapist focuses on mine.
My wellbeing has flourished since becoming a peer support worker. The work gives me a sense of purpose. I have developed how to listen, communicate, understand people’s behaviour and emotions, and how to develop coping strategies.
I chair the peer steering group at the Trust and have been helping to introduce a training course for peer support workers supported by HEE, without which I would not have been able to train people. The ten-week course is developed by service users and looks at a range of subjects; goal-setting, styles of communication and keeping yourself well.
Simon’s brother Phil works with him:
I co-train peer support workers along with Simon. This involves ensuring we meet the learner outcomes and follow the course content. We take turns with variouscontent delivery and do dual sessions for role play and demonstrations. I chair a third sector carers’ group andam also a member of HEE’s Patient Advisory Forumwhich ensures the views of patients and the public remain integral to HEE's decision-making.
From my perspective, I see how peer support workers facilitate and improve service users’ journeys in a personal and individual way. This reflects the way we deliver training, recognising that one size doesn’t fit all. The best answers come from working with and valuing people as individuals and putting them at the centre. Everyone’s experience is equal.
If you're attending the Health and Care Innovation Expo 2018, drop in to HEE's mini theatre on Stand 33 at 4.15pm on Wednesday 5 September to hear Simon and Phil Hough talk about their experience of peer support.