We interviewed Emily Holloway from the Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust about her involvement in Building Health Partnerships (BHP), a programme that facilitates collaboration between STPs, local people and the voluntary sector.  Over the course of four partnership sessions, people in each area work to identify improvements to self care at a local level and then start to deliver those improvements.

What is the problem you are trying to address in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight?

Initially we thought we would be focussing on coproduction across the mental health crisis care pathway, but actually what we are doing is much more focused on peer support. We chose to focus on peer support because it was a really strong theme in the first and second sessions. And for us, it was about listening to what people said and acting on it.

Working co-productively with service users, peer support workers and staff from across the voluntary and statutory sectors, we focused down even more on the training and development of peer support workers across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

But thinking more broadly, Building Health Partnerships has been about culture change within the NHS and beyond – shifting attitudes of clinicians and workers about the value of peer support. Even more broadly our ambition is to raise awareness in communities about mental health, encouraging people to be open and supportive of one another. So it’s also about culture change in our communities.

What are the challenges of trying to work across sectors?

It is challenging working in this way…

  • Everyone has their own agenda and reasons for engaging. So it’s about finding common ground on which people can engage to solve system wide issues.
  • Getting action and buy-in balanced with a reasonable ask of people’s time – this isn’t part of their day job. So we’ve try to support people to be involved but not overload them.
  • There some really boring, but absolutely essential things, like trying to get people together in working groups, having conference call facilities, having the infrastructure to support this way of working. It’s so important to have ‘doers’ as well as leaders, to keep things moving. What’s made the programme work so well here is that it’s been resourced!
  • Getting senior level buy-in and permission to release staff to come partnership meetings.
  • Keeping people in the loop on programme activities, this work is on top of the day job.

How have you overcome these challenges?

As an STP, we’re trying to put ourselves out there in an effort to help people come together and work collectively. BHP has helped us create 3 impartial meetings which are open to everyone where people can meet, network and explore opportunities to work together. I think these meetings have given us all the space to think a bit differently and find common ground.

In Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, we also have the Mental Health Alliance – made up of a whole range of senior leaders from across the mental health system – as another forum to share what’s going on and help embed messages with providers.

What are you hoping to achieve through Building Health Partnerships?

We’re hoping that the Peer Supporters Network we have established will continue and that the Network will continue to develop the role of peer supporters across the area.

We hope that peer support will become increasingly valued and recognised. If we’re successful, it will show that as a system, we’ve listened and acted on what people have said. Hopefully we’ll get a reputation for listening and doing.

If you were starting again, what would you do differently?

It would be great if partnership meetings were a whole day – with planning session in the morning and an action focused group in the afternoon – so we can take actions forward. Or establish working groups to take actions forward.

What advice would you give to someone in another area about to start the BHP programme?

  • Have a focus! For us, the way that peer support came through was genuinely coproduced and we’re really pleased that we had a focus for sessions 2, 3 and 4.
  • Identify a ‘doer’ and the resource to carry out the programme well!
  • Make sure your core group is committed – our regular calls have been well attended throughout and have helped us keep people in the loop and take actions from the workshops forward.
  • It’s possible to have too many opinions on something! This can make it difficult to really hear everyone. I’m glad that we opened the core group up to people, but sometimes it can be easier to make decisions in smaller groups. So consider subgroups where there is the commitment and maintain a core group to pull it together.

What’s next for you/the programme?

Our fourth partnership meeting, which we’ll use to galvanise the Peer Supporters Network by inviting Mental Health Alliance members who made pledges to the last partnership meeting to show their commitment. We’ll also be looking at how we take these messages wider so we can develop parity for peer support workers across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.