These new roles will allow those with knowledge and skills learnt through their own experiences of mental illness to work alongside staff here at Oxford Health and help with treatment of others in our care.
The trust is working with Implementing Recovery through Organisational Change (ImROC) to set up this new Peer Support Worker network, with the aim to have our first person in post by the autumn.
Staff from the Adult Directorate were invited to a special event this week to discuss the roll-out of the new initiative and had the opportunity to speak with two Peer Support Workers from Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, who hosts ImROC.
The initiative is part of the wider piece of work being done by the Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership (OMHP), which includes Oxford Health, and the charities and community organisations Response, Restore, Connection Floating Support, Oxfordshire Mind and Elmore.
Oxford Health partnership manager Anne Clarke explained the importance of the partners working together on this new initiative for Oxfordshire.
“The organisations within the partnership that support people with mental illness can learn a huge amount from those people who have used our services and who are now in a position to give something back,” she said.
“We’ve seen from the work done by ImRoc in Nottingham how the use of Peer Support Workers really complemented the work of the clinicians and had a profoundly positive effect on the culture of the organisation.”
Anne said the plan now was for the trust to recruit a Peer Support Lead/Co-ordinator in collaboration with Oxfordshire Mind. This person would then be responsible for driving the process of training, developing and recruiting the Peer Support Workers and the delivery of training for the teams where the workers will be placed.
Chris Morton, who is one of the project leads, pointed out the significance the new Peer Support roles might have for some of those coming forward.
He said: “For some it might be the first job they’ve had in a while, or even at all, so this will be a really big step in their recovery process and we need to make sure that all our teams understand what this will involve.
“Today is about supporting staff to become recovery champions, we are promoting discussion and openness about lived experience of the mental health system and the value this brings to supporting people through recovery.
“As an organisation we will support those coming into the scheme and help them to get the most from the experience so that they can give the most to those in our care.”
This was echoed by Pauline Scully, Service Director for the Adult Directorate, as she spoke at the event and commended the work done on the project so far.
She said: “I think the introduction of Peer Support Workers will have a real benefit to changing the culture of Oxford Health and the approach we take to working alongside those under our care.
“This initiative is something that is being supported at the most senior levels of the trust and we are making sure that we take our time to get the preparation and implementation of this is right so that it works for all of us.”
Being a peer support worker
Those attending the event got a chance to hear from Andy White, a Peer Support Worker from Nottingham, who drew on his own experience as a hospital inpatient before taking up a role as a Health Care Assistant (HCA) and Peer Support Worker.
Andy has now worked as a Peer Support Worker and HCA on inpatient mental health wards for the past five years.
“Being a Peer Support Worker is challenging and demanding but being able to listen to people and empathise with them and their situation and help is very rewarding,” he said.
The scheme will aim to work alongside the already successful Oxfordshire Recovery College, which already utilises the idea of experts by experience through its Peer Tutors scheme.
Anne Clarke added: “We know that in Nottingham a lot of their Peer Support Workers have come via their Recovery College, which has proved invaluable in building people’s skills and confidence to take on the challenge of these roles.
“The Recovery College here in Oxfordshire is having the same fantastic results and we hope to see similar outcomes. It’s a great example of organisations coming together and combining their different skills with the sole focus on helping people get well.”