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Promoting Excellence In Psychological Health & Wellbeing

Introducing Suzie Smith from LSCFT and her work in making a difference to the lives of people & communities in the North West, and exciting news to share on the PPN NW EbE Animation and PPWeek23!

15 Aug 23

Listen to the blog audio here (22.81 MB) .

Hi Everyone

I am so excited to share the news with you that the PPN NW EbE animation was selected to be shown at the European Congress of Psychology 2023 – in a session titled - Involvement of Experts by Experience in UK Clinical Psychology Training - given by David Gibbs (University of Birmingham) and Gary Lee (Staffordshire University) for the British Psychological Society. Gary and David shared with me that the animation and presentation was well received with a captive audience despite the presentation taking place at the end of the day in Brighton. Our thanks to our co-chair Joe Keaney in bringing the animation to Gary and David’s attention at a recent GTiCP (Group of Trainers in Clinical Psychology) meeting leading to the animation, our message and work being screened to an audience from across Europe. View the animation here

Also, we are excited to share the news that PPWeek 23 is running from the 13th through to the 17th of November 2023 – a ‘Save the date’ is live on the PPN site and you can also access content from PPWeek 22 here to give you a flavour of what was on offer.

All of us who are members of the PPN NW EbE steering group discuss examples of best practice that we would like to share via the blog. So, in this month’s blog I will be sharing the work of Suzie Smith, Service Development Manager for LSCFT - Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust Recovery and Resilience Team, who I was fortunate to meet recently. We spoke about many things including her work in engaging public involvement and why a culture shift is necessary to generate change. I have redacted the conversational interruptions and pauses from myself to allow Suzie to share her perspective with you. 

Suzie, it’s great to have this opportunity to get to know more about you, your work and what drives you in what I know has been a career where increasing opportunities for service users and the public to be involved has been a real focus. To give readers some context can you share a little about that journey, before we go on to discuss your work and current project in improving public awareness and understanding about mental health and the Mental Health Act.

Suzie - Well, where do I start? I have worked in the NHS for 20 years in different roles and for different Trusts. Midway through my career, I experienced a crisis in my own mental health and when I returned to work from maternity leave, I looked at health services with fresh eyes. If I struggled to navigate services with my insider knowledge, then how could the public? At the time I was working for North West Ambulance Service and I knew I wanted to use my own lived experience to try and make a difference in mental health, so I applied for roles at my local mental health trust. I soon learned about Mersey Care’s new approach to recovery through a social model of care and I was hooked! Working alongside experts by experience and experts by profession, we developed The Recovery College as part of the Life Rooms service. Ensuring lived experiences and voices were heard and instrumental in making change through co-production, The Life Rooms model in Liverpool created opportunities for service users to attend courses, groups and meetings free-of-charge to inform themselves about their physical and mental health and to socialise, take part in and to shape curriculum content.

When I moved on to Lancashire and South Cumbria Foundation Trust in 2019, there was already a desire to develop a Recovery College but there were plenty of new challenges to face and that’s why when the LSCFT Recovery College was launched I recognised the need to get back to basics, starting with a culture shift to bring the lived experience voice front and centre to create a peer led, social model of care that enables people to orchestrate their own recovery journeys, with the right support from mental health professionals and wider services.

We hadn’t even been delivering a year when the pandemic and social distancing arrived, which could have stopped the development of the service  but we knew access to health and wellbeing initiatives like ours were even more necessary as people were thrown in to uncertain and isolated circumstances. Working closely with our newly appointed administration assistant, we were able to quickly respond by launching the Online Recovery College in June 2020, one of the first in the country. Our digital platform has continued to grow and our courses are still available online as well as in person, ensuring we’re accessible to all across Lancashire and South Cumbria. As we emerged from the pandemic we opened our first Recovery College site in Preston in April 2022 with our second site quickly following in September 2022 in Burnley.  We’ve a huge geography to cover across Lancashire and South Cumbria but are excited by the potential to have a local Recovery College available at the heart of communities across our other localities in the future.

Our team has grown significantly in the last year having welcomed Volunteer Peer roles as well as developing Apprentice Health and Wellbeing Practitioner roles, we’re having a huge impact on the health, wellbeing and social opportunities available to our service users and wider communities. Through sheer determination and a small but mighty group of experts by experience and experts by profession, we’ve built a successful model that continues to flourish thanks to meaningful co-production and lived experience expertise.

The recent Health Education England project came about following a discussion with a Consultant Nurse colleague who was developing a course on understanding new roles and responsibilities of mental health services. We shared a desire to engage directly with our service users and carers, via the Recovery College, to develop courses and workshops that informed people of these new roles, but why stop there? We had an opportunity to create a programme of courses that improved the public’s understanding of their rights and services responsibilities, demystifying some of the complexities of health and social care we expect people to navigate when in services or accessing wider care.

A seed had been planted and I worked closely with Chris who was able to identify funding through Health Education England to support a North West project, creating a NW collaborative of Recovery & Wellbeing services. The content, when finished, will be rolled out across the North West region. Stakeholders include the LSCFT Recovery College, GMMH Recovery Academy, Pennine Care Health & Wellbeing College and a wide range of Experts by Experience enrolled through LSCFT's Involvement Policy.

Our Project Coordinator, Shaun Everitt, has developed an inclusive co-production workshop format, with facilitated groups co-producing short courses that value both lived and professional experiences equally. Everyone involved has safely and respectfully shared their experiences, knowledge and understanding of accessing mental health services, being sectioned, etc. Key questions have included ‘What do you wish you had known about services/ the Mental Health Act?’ and ‘What knowledge and information about services/ law would support recovery?’.

Where courses are truly co-produced, with equal value and respect being placed on the lived experience perspective, the programmes we subsequently deliver will be more meaningful to those who access them. Co-delivering these new courses with experts by experience and experts by profession creates opportunities for the public to learn from and identify with like-minded people who have been there, lived it, and truly understand. We hope this project helps amplify the key role involving people with lived experience plays in influencing improvements in health and social care.

Importantly we had funding which allowed us to pay Experts by Experience involved for their expertise in this work. There has too long been the expectation of EbE involvement being voluntary, but the culture here is that remuneration of the lived experience voice is vital in demonstrating the value such expertise is has in developing future service design and development. It will, of course, be important that everyone’s experience of this process is evaluated to understand the impact of this approach and to ensure we continuously improve the application of co-production across health and social care development.

How do we involve Experts by Experience? At LSCFT we are actively recruiting to peer roles across our workforce to, across community and in-patient settings. For those not looking for employment we also offer the opportunity to join our involvement database with expressions of interest from individuals with lived experience to support good practice. We get really good feedback but we still need to do more, wider, further, and broader to ensure all communities and experiences are represented by our wide range of experts by experience. We’ve found social media has also been a great route to make people aware of different projects we need support with.

We really can’t let this movement slide, we know we need to get better at reaching out at to heart of communities so, for example, the big blue bus we call ‘HARRI’ (Health, Advice, Recovery, Resilience, and Information) has proved a vital link across Lancashire and South Cumbria to engage directly with communities in places you wouldn’t normally see health service delivered. We might park HARRI up at your local supermarket, community centre, mosque or family fun day! We want to be there to support people as they go about their daily tasks and always encourage local groups, services and health and social care colleagues to jump on board to talk to people at a time that suits them. This initiative is about prevention, about information and conversation - we hope to encourage more feedback and guidance from under-represented and minority groups who may be at greater risk of health inequalities. In short we’re here to ensure everyone feels they have a voice, if traditional services aren’t reaching everyone then we must change our practice and find better ways of being inclusive and accessible.

Reducing the stigma around long-term mental and physical health conditions and giving hope to service users to be in control has for too long only come from a professional standpoint, we know true change only comes when communities feel heard and their needs are accommodated. When knowledge is shared from a lived experience perspective and people can safely share what help was valuable for them to live their lives, it is grounded and becomes accessible to other service users.

Reducing health inequalities is key, by taking a step back from the medical model and moving towards a social model of care focussed on the wider determinants of health we will deliver services even more effectively. Where housing is poor, when there is lack of employment opportunity or few educational opportunities, then people’s starting point is not the same and the foundation to a secure life, home and meaningful employment is missing - then there is health inequity. The question is ‘What can we do in those circumstances to support individuals and communities wellbeing, to improve health and stop ‘doing’ health to people?  We understand people feel there is an absence of social justice and increasing poverty due to the cost-of-living crisis, so at the Recovery College we hold this in mind. Our response to these circumstances is with calmness and kindness avoiding a ‘them and us’ situation.

Working alongside expert people we learn from them to create more hope and resilience. EbE’s sharing their stories and perspective is an antidote to the often divisive and challenging headlines in the media and gives each community their own role models and leaders to hold up as a mirror. I am proud of our projects and co-productions which have been pivotal in developing relationships with community providers and charities, particularly during lockdown creating new innovative ways to deliver our connecting services through digital means via the online Recovery College.

When I personally needed support and understanding, it just took too long to access the right professional support. Of course that professional support was welcomed when it came, but I also learned I needed to meet others in similar situations to help me understand what was happening to me and why, it was these shared experiences that helped me navigate life following diagnosis, build meaningful friendships, and gain practical advice that supported my recovery. This is where EbE involvement is of such value, it’s why I’m values led and why I will continue to build EbE influence in our services, especially in regards to seldom-heard communities. The Recovery College is saying ‘We’ll come to you to include you!’. If we want to achieve more in health equity and reduce health inequalities we need a reflective social model of care to inform our work.

Our most recent way of ensuring our services meet the needs of our communities was through listening to people’s feedback on our name. Many people didn’t like the name Recovery College or didn’t understand what we did, so we launched an open competition to find a new name. With over 85 entries, we were able to shortlist to five suggestions which then went to a public vote resulting in our new name of Community Roots. We think this new name perfectly captures what we’re all about, getting to the root of the problem and finding solutions and support as part of a huge community of change! We’ll launch our new website and learner journey system at the end of August and welcome everyone to keep in touch and help us develop something very special for the whole community.

Suzie thank you for sharing your passion, values, lived experience and your professional perspective in our conversation. I wish you and the Recovery College- now Community Roots- every success in your work and projects which make such a difference to empowering service users and engaging communities to effect change.

Contact email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Finally, to say I have almost gone full circle in this blog as I reflect in August looking forward to September and the start of the academic year and welcoming the new cohorts to the Liverpool, Manchester and Lancaster Doctorate in Clinical Psychology programmes.  I will be giving you a flavour in September of how we as EbE’s support and ground the training of the trainees from day one - so watch this space to learn more.

If you have any ideas or suggestions for the EbE steering group or for this blog please reach out to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Until next month please take the very best care of yourselves