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Integration and the human touch

Integration is one of the buzz words in health at the moment. Mostly that means the integration of the NHS with Local Authorities over initiatives like Better Care, but some NHS Trusts are looking much more radically to the potential of 3rd Sector partners like Solent Mind to help transform their delivery of mental health services. I was at a fantastic session last week listening to 3 of our brand new Peer Support Workers reflecting on working life employed by Solent Mind in Southern Health Trust’s acute units in Southampton and across Hampshire. The plan is 16 Peer Support Workers in all, and we’re getting a really warm welcome from patients and staff. Almost everyone can see the benefits of Peer Support: the inspiration that comes from seeing recovery in action. We know we’re offering something different, but complementary. And we’re learning how to show a little humanity alongside traditional NHS professionalism: when to disclose our own lived experience, how to use humour with colleagues and patients and how important food is in communication.

And 1st April sees us taking on a new role in Portsmouth – this time with Solent NHS Trust. Again we’re going to be working in the heart of the mental health system as Peer Workers, Support, Time and Recovery Workers and Employment Advisors and with a role in helping create truly recovery-focussed services. It’s a huge challenge and one we relish.

The last few years haven’t been easy for people with mental health issues, but there’s a fresh response coming in some parts of the NHS to what their patients and service users have been saying about the need to make services more human. With the Chancellor’s pre election budget giving a small boost to mental health spend, and with mental health featuring increasingly on the election agenda across the political spectrum, I’m beginning to feel strangely optimistic about mental health. Maybe it’s spring…

Richard was also a guest blogger for Action Hampshire in April click here to read his blog on commissioning.

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