Welcoming peer workers in NHS settings: facilitating readiness with an Early Intervention in Psychosis team [2019]

A pilot project commissioned to assess feasibility and impact of peer support in an Early Intervention in Psychosis (EIP) service highlighted the importance of team readiness. The purpose of this paper is to reflect on the lessons learned in recognising and facilitating team readiness in an NHS setting.

The literature suggests that mental health teams need to be ready to implement peer support, if this is to be done successfully. The authors describe the process of preparing for peer support, obstacles that arose and ways that the team found to address these.

The team had actively sought to develop peer support for some time, and negotiated with Trust managers to agree these roles in principle. However, initially unspoken concerns about duty of care emerged as a key obstacle. An arguably paternalistic desire to protect potential peer worker colleagues from stress and distress could have resulted in unnecessary risk aversion and a narrowing of the role. Willingness and opportunity to reflect on the change in relationship from service user/professionals to colleagues enabled these concerns to be aired, and practical solutions agreed.

Practical implications
Team enthusiasm is not the same as team readiness. The team’s willingness to identify and reflect on implicit concerns facilitated an acceptance of the change in relationship with peer workers, which in turn enabled the development of standard operating procedures to ensure safe and effective peer support as “business as usual.”

This paper considers the process of welcoming peer workers in an EIP team and offers practical suggestions that may be of value to other teams seeking to implement peer support in similar adult mental health settings.

Kyt Proctor, Rachael Wood, Katherine Newman-Taylor
Mental Health and Social Inclusion, Vol. 23 Issue: 1, 2019