Shared learning database

Together: for mental wellbeing
Published date:
April 2012

A variety of training sessions designed and delivered by people who use mental health services. The training sessions aim to inform mental health workers about service user involvement to enable staff to make positive changes to their working practice.

Does the example relate to a general implementation of all NICE guidance?
Does the example relate to a specific implementation of a specific piece of NICE guidance?


Aims and objectives

The aim of this iniative was twofold:-
1. To develop and support a group of mental health service users to become skilled and experienced trainers. This group of people would be able to identify the training needs of mental health workers based on their experience of accessing services.
2. To develop and deliver service user led training sessions to a broad range of mental health workers. The skills, knowledge and experiences that learners acquired throughout the session would be utilised to inform daily practice and improve the experience of people accessing services. As a result of taking part in this initiative service users would be able to:-
- Participate in a Train the Trainer programme to equip them with the skills to develop and deliver training
- Utilise their experiences of using mental health services to lead to positive change within mental health services
- Give and receive peer support to other service user trainers
- Take part in high quality and meaningful volunteering opportunities
- Develop new skills and experience
- Increase self esteem, confidence and motivation levels

As a result of accessing training sessions mental health workers would be able to:-
- Understand and appreciate the lived experience of mental health service users
- Identify areas of practice that work well from a service user perspective
- Identify areas of practice that do not work well from a service user perspective
- Identify ways in which the service user experience can lead to improvements within mental health services

Reasons for implementing your project

Service users come together on a regular basis within Together's Regional Service User Steering Groups that run in Manchester and London. These groups aim to:-
- Encourage participation from a wide range of people who experience distress
- Provide a safe and supportive environment for people to share information, knowledge and experiences
- Empower and support service users to inform, influence and improve mental health services
- Improve Together's services through meaningful service user involvement
- Support people to improve their own wellbeing through involvement opportunities

Within these meetings, service users often speak about their experience of accessing mental health services. It has been identified that service users are best placed to inform staff providing services about what works well, what doesn't work well and how services can be improved as a result of service user involvement. Service users identified the need to bring together a collective voice of mental health service users to inform mental health staff of their experiences in a dialogue that was outside and separate to the usual staff - client relationship that exists. This would facilitate a learning experience in an appropriate environment that allowed time for challenging discussions, constructive criticism and reflection to improve the service user experience.

At the same time, a group of senior managers identified the need to inform staff at all levels about the principles of service user involvement, the practical issues that this entails and how it can drive forward standards and quality of care. This included the need for staff to have an increased understanding and awareness of how the skills, talents and experiences of service users could be utilised to improve service delivery.

How did you implement the project

A small group of interested service users were brought together to develop learning aims, outcomes and appropriate activities for an initial training day. This process was supported by the production of a role description to clearly set out the details of the involvement opportunity to develop training sessions. One to one support and training was provided to support service user delivery of this session. Once the training day had been developed, it was piloted with a group of core staff. An evaluation of this training day then influenced the content of future training sessions. The success of the training enabled the rollout of this training on a regional, and then a national, basis. In total, it was accessed by more than 600 people (359 staff and 243 service users), representing almost 50% of the workforce The increased level of demand for training meant that a larger pool of trainers were required to support its delivery and for this to be done in a standardised format. A bespoke Train the Trainer training programme ensured that those who were involved in the delivery of training had sufficient knowledge and skills to deliver the session, in addition to having lived experience of mental distress that they shared in an appropriate manner. All trainers were provided with a training handbook to support delivery - this included a variety of activities that could be undertaken to achieve each individual learning outcome.

Costs incurred related to service user trainer travel expenses and support systems, refreshments and room hire on occasions. This was in addition to standard costs for staff to access training sessions, including staff travel and time.

Key findings

Within each training session, staff and service users were asked to develop a project based action plan to identify ways in which service users could be involved within services to improve day to day practice. Action plans were owned by staff teams and implementation progress is being monitored through staff team meetings and individual supervision sessions.

All training sessions were evaluated using Together's standard training evaluation form. Service user trainers worked with key staff within the Skills Development Department to evaluate the content of the training to inform future delivery. Learners were also asked to reflect on how they would change their working practice as a result of the training session - in particular, what will they do more of, what they will do less of, and what they will not do in future.

The majority of staff commented positively about the positive impact of service user led and delivered training.

Key learning points

Service user led training sessions need to be led by service users at all stages - from initial development, to delivery, and evaluation. Support systems need to be considered and put in place to ensure that this is done in a meaningful way. This includes having strong and robust systems to ensure that:

- Service users are able to take part at a level that they feel comfortable with
- Feel safe and supported to talk about their distress as a learning point for others
- People have access to high quality training, group support and one to one support / supervision
- People are not at a loss financially as a result of their input
- People feel able to praise good practice, challenge poor practice and help identify creative solutions to improve practice

It is also crucial that staff who support the development and delivery of service user led training are provided with sufficient time and resources to do so. The successful roll out of service user led training requires support from Directors and senior managers.

Contact details

Angela Newton
Deputy Director, Service User Involvement Directorate
Together: for mental wellbeing

Is the example industry-sponsored in any way?