Peer Support in A&E – A Service User Success Story

A while ago, some CBUG members were involved in a group writing a funding bid for Mental Health Liaison funding to NHS England. Beverley proposed the idea of having people with lived experience working in A&E to offer support to anyone there with mental health issues. She described them as “A&E Aunties” and they would be there to calm and reassure, keep you informed about what was going on, be a listening ear, help get you a cup of tea or contact people if you needed to sort out something like pet care, and they could help with gathering basic information for the triage process. Suzy supported her idea by saying “I would love an A&E Aunty!” and with the support of Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Justin Shute we got to write the proposal into the funding bid. The bid was successful and the full time roles for Emergency Department Peer Support Workers at NMUH were advertised. We were then pleased to hear that our dear own Pat Kenny got one of the jobs!
The pilot has gone very well indeed and concerns that people with lived experience might not be resilient enough to last in such a high pressure and potentially triggering environment have proved unfounded. Based on the principle of ‘it takes one to know one’, we are told that the peer support workers can spot things going on with the people presenting to A&E that professionals have at first missed. For the patients, being able to speak to someone with the understanding and empathy of also having been in your shoes is priceless. It makes sense that a better understanding of the person in distress at this stage will lead to a more appropriate care pathway, and so should not only be better for the service user but also more effective for the system as a whole. When we are in distress it is very important to be heard, and it might not be possible to be truly heard unless the person you are speaking to speaks your language, if you know what I mean?
On 20th of March 2019 the results of the pilot were presented at the Royal College of Psychiatrists and won awards for best poster and oral presentation. A fuller report is due soon but you can see the poster abstract by clicking here:
Peer Support in ED pilot poster
Our man “Pirate Pat” was up there presenting like a boss! Pat presenting at RCPsych
For more information on how Peer Support in Emergency Departments is working please contact Justin.Shute@nhs.net

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