We enable people in crisis to raise issues with service providers so their care and treatment meets their needs; supported by volunteers like them.
We currently run seventeen Linkworking peer support sessions a week on Croydon’s mental health inpatient wards at the Bethlem Royal Hospital and in Croydon’s community Mental Health resource centres. After sessions, we run handovers with ward / service managers where we raise over 4,000 issues each year to ensure service user immediate needs’ are addressed. `The Linkworkers Project also supports service users to understand their treatment; services available to them; and brings hope during dark and difficult times. Our outcomes and qualitative data provide insight for the CCG and have a positive impact on local commissioning as it enables providers and commissioners to spend strategically through our work to identify the strategic issues, which exist in mental health services.
We introduced a new service called Linkwork Champions in
October 2018, to work closely alongside SLaM service leads, ward managers and
occupational therapists. Meeting monthly, our champions identify areas of
concern and make recommendations for change that have direct impact on people’s
recovery and speed up discharge from inpatient services. This works builds on
previous learning from our patient engagement work (helping people with mental
illness develop a voice in their care).
From April 2018 to March 2019 we reached 2782 vulnerable
service users to discuss their care and treatment (an increase of 9% (228) from
the year before). We achieve this through 20 to 25 Linkworkers volunteering at any one time. Their volunteer role
is to connect with people with a severe
mental illness. We train them to ‘Listen’, ‘Support’ and ‘Signpost’
their peers to aid their recovery, improve their wellbeing and reduce their
isolation. Peer navigators provide a
new tool for the health services, in that we aid recovery (whilst costing far
less than statutory interventions).
Our peer navigators (like the service users they meet) have
recently or are currently using the same mental health services provided by
South London and Maudsley NHS Trust (SLaM). Most volunteers join after
encountering this project themselves. People are given back their dignity – we
give them time to talk about the confusion of thoughts and voices in their
heads; anxieties and worries that will not leave them and delusions of
paranoia. Linkworkers are not judgemental – they experience these same symptoms
with people with a severe mental illness; the most vulnerable people in our
communities. Most are sectioned on locked psychiatric wards, isolated away from
friends and family. Psychiatric wards can feel clinical and cold environments
and are noisy, lonely, scary places, filled with tension. Many service users
pace up and down ward corridors like caged animals; often forced onto a regime
of powerful medication, which sinks them into vegetated state.
break the monotony of ward life – for many on the ward, Linkworkers are the only
visitors they get. Psychiatric wards are merely containment areas where doctors
medicate people in severe crisis or psychosis. They are not effective at supporting
vulnerable people to move towards recovery (they struggle due to underfunding of
mental health services and staff shortages).
Linkworkers are able
to connect with service users because of their own lived experiences. People
with mental illness die 15 to 20 years earlier then people without an illness.
People with a mental illness, particularly men, dis-engage with health services
(GPs, hospital and even dentists). Most service users also struggle with
finances due to additional issues and then use cigarettes, drugs and alcohol to
Patients’ preferences matter: stop the silent misdiagnosis
– (Mulley et al 2012) highlighted how ‘silent misdiagnosis’ arises when
doctors fail to consult patients about what care they would actually like. Its
implications for both better patient care and better use of NHS resources are
Two examples of how our Linkworkers have helped address key
Acting as a link
between staff and users, peer navigators achieve great results:
Listen: “We are there to listen and not to judge. Having had our own mental health problems, we know how helpful it is to have someone to talk to in confidence and have their own lived experiences of services. As Linkworkers, we offer a safe space to talk about any issues without any fear of repercussions, so that service users can get the help to feel better.”
Support: “If any issues are raised or someone shares something that is worrying them, we are there to support them and try to help get the issues resolved. To do this, we can either support them to raise the issue themselves, or raise the issues on their behalf, anonymously or directly, depending on what is preferred.”
Signpost: “Sometimes what’s on someone’s mind might be something that we can’t help with directly but we can usually point them in the direction to get help. For example, someone might be worried about benefits or need support to find work. In these cases, we can usually let them know about other organisations that are available to help.”
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