Dr David Crichton blog: The value of peer support in Doncaster

This is a transcript of my My View column that was published in the Doncaster Star on Monday 18 July, 2016

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

068That’s what happened last week when the locally based People Focussed 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 contractual support we and our 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 and one of the biggest I have seen is how the NHS has moved from treating a patient’s illness to looking at the person holistically as a whole. We are now much more focussed on promoting wellness, which is a term generally used to mean achieving a health mind and body.

A key element of promoting a patient’s recovery is through the support they get from other people, in particular from 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 a group of people who ‘wanted to get a life, not a service’. The group has grown rapidly over the past couple of years and now has over 300 members who each have the dual role of giving and providing support.

Members run a range of self-help activities and opportunities that are open to anyone in the Doncaster area, including craft groups, a football team, community clothes and food banks, and much more.

Recently PFG have developed Bumping Spaces in various locations across Doncaster, including at Denaby where the initiative is providing an opportunity 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 prestigious 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 that help to lift us. It’s a great tonic.

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

Crucially, it also provides a foundation for patients to have much more control over the management of their health issues.

  • For more information about PFG ring 01302 618507.

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