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Choice and Control: Award for Islington mental health scheme that hires people with experience of mental illness

PUBLISHED: 13:00 22 October 2018 | UPDATED: 15:31 22 October 2018

The Choice and Control team - including peer mentors - celebrate the award win in Liverpool. Picture: Choice and Control

The Choice and Control team - including peer mentors - celebrate the award win in Liverpool. Picture: Choice and Control

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An innovative NHS project that hires people with first-hand experience of mental illness to support mental health patients across Islington has won a national award.

The Choice and Control team - including peer mentors - celebrate the award win in Liverpool. Picture: Cerdic HallThe Choice and Control team - including peer mentors - celebrate the award win in Liverpool. Picture: Cerdic Hall

Workers from the “Choice and Control” peer coaching service celebrated the win on October 11 at an awards ceremony in Liverpool. The project was recognised for combining physical and mental health care.

It was launched a year ago and has since helped more than 250 mental health patients in Islington, conducting more than 1,000 home visits. The scheme puts peer workers – people with lived experience of mental health issues who have been trained in care giving – at the disposal of patients. It has yet to be rolled out in any other boroughs.

Angie Russell from the Positive Practice Mental Health Collaborative – the organisation behind the awards – said: “Choice and Control is a totally innovative service.

“[It’s] a brilliant example of co-production – the peer workers have as much say in the service as the mental health professionals have.”

Over 10 hour-long sessions, the peer workers and patients produce and put into action a personalised care plan. Most patients are also given a personal health budget to spend on activities that contribute to their physical and mental well-being.

Six people from the scheme attended the awards ceremony, including several peer workers. Cerdic Hall, the nurse consultant behind the project, said: “Everyone was surprised but excited.

“The vibe was good – we all felt like schoolkids going to prom.”

The project has been extended for another six months, thanks in part to the award.

“I’m optimistic about the future of the project,” added Cerdic. “What’s been really successful is we’re getting a group of clients that is often alienated from services and we’re managing to engage with them in some meaningful way.”

The scheme was also praised by judges for its impact on the peer workers involved, who are often looking to return to work after overcoming mental health issues.

“It’s a no brainer,” said Cerdic, “because it has a double impact on the care provider and the patient.”

Cristina Serrao, a peer worker on the scheme who lives with PTSD, anxiety and chronic physical health problems, said she “felt like an overexcited kid on the night”.

“It was most amazing thing to be recognised,” she said.

“I wish I’d had someone like me come into my house four years ago who knew what I was going through.”

Follow Oliver Barnes on Twitter @bombitabarnes.

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