My View, Dr David Crichton: A little support makes people feel better

The locally based People Focussed Group (presented NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group with their True Peer Inclusion Award. Emma Smith and Andrea Butcher, from the trust's mental health team, are pictured here with the trophy, which they received at a special event at Doncaster Hub.
The locally based People Focussed Group (presented NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group with their True Peer Inclusion Award. Emma Smith and Andrea Butcher, from the trust's mental health team, are pictured here with the trophy, which they received at a special event at Doncaster Hub.

We don’t always get things right in the NHS, especially first time round, but it’s nice to be praised when we do, particularly when it comes from some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

That’s what happened last week when the locally based People Focused Group (PFG) presented NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group with their True Peer Inclusion Award. My colleagues Emma Smith and Andrea Butcher, from our mental health team, are pictured here with the trophy, which they received at a special event at Doncaster Hub.

It was recognition of the support we and colleagues at Doncaster Council have given PFG to develop ‘peer support’ locally for people who have mental health issues.

There have been many changes in health care since I qualified as a doctor . One is how the NHS has moved from treating a patient’s illness to looking at them as a whole. We are now more focused on promoting wellness, a term used to mean achieving a healthy mind and body.

A key element of promoting a patient’s recovery is support they get from other people, in particular those who have been ‘in their shoes’. It’s called peer support, which is what the PFG is good at. Based at The Wellness Centre, in Intake, PFG was started six years ago by people who ‘wanted to get a life, not a service’. They now have more than 300 members, who each have the dual role of giving and providing support.

Members run self-help activities and opportunities, open to anyone in Doncaster, including craft groups, a football team, community clothes and food banks.

Recently PFG developed Bumping Spaces in various locations across Doncaster, including at Denaby, where they provide chances for the community to come together and exercise, talk and enjoy each other’s company.

PFG also offer three training programmes to help people and other organisations deliver peer support and other programmes. PFG’s pioneering approach has led to them receiving a number of awards and they are nationally recognised as leaders in peer support – all of which started in Doncaster.

The relationship between organisations like the NHS and peer support is vital. We all have busy lives and when we become ill, or feel low, it’s friends and family who help lift us.

Peer support provides enormous value to the NHS. It is community-based so reduces the reliance on hospital in-patient beds, and helps reduce the number of appointments for over-stretched GPs.

Crucially, it also provides a foundation for patients to have more control over managing their health issues.

Call 01302 618507.