Life-changing Peer Support Worker Team awarded Trailblazer status

Oxford Health’s pioneering approach to recovery and employment for people with experience of mental illness has been awarded prestigious trailblazer status by Health Education England.

Oxford Health’s transformative lived experience team for people with experience of mental illness has been awarded prestigious trailblazer status by Health Education England.

The Peer Support Worker Programme focuses on people’s recovery – providing one-of-a-kind support to people experiencing mental ill-health and inspirational career opportunities for people in recovery.

The accolade means the trust is to further expand the programme and will have the chance to contribute to a national framework for the approach alongside a national evaluation programme.

A total of 27 peer support workers are employed by the trust supporting people who use adult mental health services in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.

They are part of the multi-disciplinary team offering support in a unique way for patients. And becoming a Peer Support Worker provides hope, control and opportunity for patients on their recovery journey as they become an extremely valuable asset to the existing team of support and clinical staff.

The programme, part of Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership’s programme of work, is expanding as it goes from strength to strength.

This year peer support workers will be recruited into Forensics and Older Adult services in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. A senior peer support worker role is also being developed alongside a lived experience lead in the trust’s Learning and Development team. The move will embed lived experience in trust training with staff hearing first hand from participants. Recruitment is also underway for a support programme lead.

Chris Morton, service manager and lived experience lead for Buckinghamshire, said:

“The Peer Support Programme is changing the culture across the whole organisation to have a real focus on recovery. It also breaks down any separation of staff and patients, demonstrating that we all have mental health and mental wellbeing. Peer support workers can provide support to patients, drawn from their own experience. They can help improve the quality of patient care and offer unique insight and support for people to recover and thrive, after a period of poor mental health.”

Claire Bruce, senior occupational therapist on Wintle Ward at Littlemore Mental Health Centre said:

“Peer Support Workers provide an invaluable insight into the experience of our service users, supporting the MDT to offer real patient centred care. PSW’s make time for meaningful, honest conversation with our service users, supporting them to see past current crisis and difficulties, offering hope for recovery. They are an excellent addition to any team.

“I can not emphasise enough what a significant difference having a peer support worker within the team makes. The PSW’s personal experience allows her the unique ability to relate to and understand a service users perspective in a way that I just don’t feel we as mental health professionals can. She uses this unique perspective to provide patients with hope that there is a way forward and that recovery can take many forms – making her a vital part of a patient’s care team.”

What our Peer Support Workers say


“I feel that my work with patients has been well received and during the months I have grown confidence in tailoring my work to fit patients’ individual needs, after all what works for one may not work for another. I have also found ways to interact with patients in a non-intrusive way to open up healthy discussions around wellbeing and managing emotions, using interactive games, creative writing groups and 1:1 mindfulness sessions.

“Since I began my journey as a peer support worker, I have gained the skills and insight on how I can utilise my own mental health experiences to help others. I feel that every day I am in a constant state of learning. My job as a peer empowers me to be more aware of what is beneficial to my own mental health and this enables me to help others.”


“I have found that in my role as a Peer Support Worker, there are a number of ways in which I can use my lived experience of mental health difficulties to support my clients than I had previously expected. This includes using my experiences to create helpful goals and exercises for the client, giving suggestions of how to manage and cope and a way to give deep, genuine empathy. I think the role of a Peer Support Worker enriches the collective support that the client receives from my team. and provides unique care coming from an angle of someone that has been through mental illness.”


“I work at a general hospital whereby our referrals come via A&E, I am privileged to attend patient assessments with an experienced clinician. Being non-clinical, my lived and life experience have offered an alternative view to patient and the team.”

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Published: 2 June 2021