In the years since I qualified as a doctor, there have been many advances in healthcare.
One of the biggest changes is how the NHS has moved away from treating a patient’s illness to looking at the person as a whole. We are now much more focussed on promoting wellness, a term generally used to mean achieving a healthy balance of mind and body.
A crucial element of promoting a patient’s recovery is support from other people, in particular from those who have been ‘in their shoes’.
That’s why I’m pleased to see a new project start today in Doncaster that will see local people with mental and emotional health problems given support to move forward with their lives. They will be given a helping hand by volunteers who have experienced and overcome similar difficulties themselves.
We and Doncaster Council have awarded a two-year contract to run a borough-wide peer support training service to the Intake-based People Focussed Group (PFG) Doncaster. It’s all about people helping each other.
Based at The Wellness Centre on Montrose Avenue, PFG Doncaster has over 200 members who provide support to each other, from practical assistance around the home, to a listening ear, friendships and skills exchanges. It was formed four years ago and members have helped influence the development of local mental health services and are locally and nationally recognised as a leading peer support organisation.
They will provide peer support development and training for community groups and organisations across Doncaster. The aim is to create a ripple effect, with PFG members recruiting, training and supporting local groups who in turn will provide peer support to people within their community.
The Mental Health Foundation defines peer support as help and support that people with experience of mental illness give each other. Research suggests it helps increase self-esteem, confidence and the ability to cope with mental health problems. It focuses on strengths, not weaknesses, and helps wellbeing and recovery.
Trained peer supporters are able to help with social issues like anxiety, depression, addiction, relationship problems and many mental health issues.
Over the next two years, PFG Doncaster will train peer supporters and peer support trainers, equipping them with the skills and knowledge to make a difference in Doncaster’s communities.
Evidence points towards peer support being important in encouraging wellness in people recovering from mental and emotional health problems. There are many potential benefits to be gained by investing in peer support, including reduced medication costs and fewer hospital admissions.
We know that people who experience mental health issues often neglect their physical health and this can cause additional problems, which this project will also help to tackle. Let’s wish it well.
* Dr Nick Tupper, Chairman, Doncaster clinical commissioning group