Our Linkworker Project is giving service users a greater voice in the quality of care and treatment received on the wards at the Bethlem Royal Hospital and in Croydon’s Community Resources Centres leading to improved decision-making, and crucially hope.
Volunteer Linkworkers act as a champion for service users to raise global issues with senior SLaM managers, giving a voice to patients and service users e.g. weekly service user contact on identified wards. Results from 2022-2023 show that this process works. Service providers are now coming to us to ask where they should improve and we are influencing service providers at the director level; aided by quarterly reports to SLaM. Some changes are also happening at meetings where we share findings e.g. monthly meetings with senior SLaM staff (PPI leads) where, quarterly meetings with service managers, and weekly meetings with ward managers to discuss individual patient needs.
Service Users need to be included in their care plan and recovery model (No decision about me without me (2012)) and be helped to navigate into the community e.g., access relevant voluntary sector services which improve their mental health and wellbeing. From simple steps such as access to the garden through to improved waiting times for appointments; all our efforts help build the confidence and trust of service users in their recovery process. Medication plays a large amount in the life of a person suffering with mental illness. When you are first receiving a diagnosis, you are having a label that removes all your self-esteem and confidence in having a future life. It wipes out possibility of having employment and a family. Medication has severe side effects and makes you crave unhealthy food, making you gain weight; lose motivation and not care about yourself. Treatments received actually make you feel worse about yourself and your future.
Our Linkworkers bring hope when there is no hope.
We build a strong lived experience volunteer network who share our experiences; our recovery, and our lives – we affect people so positively that being a Linkworker “should be bottled and dispensed like medication!”
We want to train up more Linkworkers to be respected volunteers. Our current Linkworkers have a good knowledge of all services across inpatient, community and voluntary sector due to their own lived experiences; helping service users to become more included in communities (rather than continued dependence on services and medication / caught in the revolving door of relapse and hospitalisation).
For a service user, knowing that a Linkworker has actually been an inpatient on that ward is worth its weight in gold. Linkworkers help service users to feel safe to engage with nurses, doctors and consultants, to feel empowered to disclose symptoms, worries and anxiety. Being able to disclose fully your symptoms leads to correct medication and access to treatments leading to recovery and improved wellbeing. For our service to be effective, we need to continue training up volunteers, ensuring that SLaM staff continue to report our volunteers as well-respected, passionate and expert support for users.
Furthermore, this volunteer role also ensures that Linkworkers do not to end up in ‘high end’ services since when they volunteer with Hear Us they develop skills and confidence to ensure that they can manage their mental health conditions, which means that we are enabling people to maintain their health and well-being.
Improve SLaM (our local mental health trust) so it delivers early intervention and preventative services to promote respect and dignity.
Improving service users’ experience and supporting them to recover more speedily will also reduce length of stay which will reduce service provision costs and promote recovery i.e. better support at earliest possible moment.
Our outcomes and qualitative data will provide valuable insight for the CCG and have a positive impact on local commissioning. It is important that service users are given the opportunity to be included in the involvement of improving clinical services. This leads to improved mental health service provision across Croydon and in neighbouring boroughs; reduction in annual ‘bed’ budget; and bigger voice for service users (%). All our data and reports are shared with commissioners and service providers to enable them to improve and deliver quality health and social care services.