Peer support is one of the most highly valued sources of help to people with physical and mental health conditions. Yet, despite proof of effectiveness, Don Redding, director of policy and partnerships at National Voices, explains it has received little investment from the health service.
Peer support remains a mainstay of provision in the voluntary and community sector (VCS), where groups and organisations have sought to address the gaps left by the bio-medical priorities of health services – that is, to address the emotional and psychological components of health, and the impacts of living with physical and mental health conditions.
Now the NHS has adopted plans which seek to end this split, health system leaders and service managers will need to consider how – in partnership with the VCS sector - they can build and develop peer support and other components of the universal, personalised care model into a new service model.
A potential barrier, due to the split in provision, is that information and evidence about successful peer support has tended to become invisible or lost, since it rarely forms part of mainstream medical, social science or quality improvement research.
A new resource from National Voices, developed with expert charities, the Q Improvement Lab, and supported by The Health Foundation, aims to overcome that problem.
The Peer Support Hub, launched today (14 March 2019), brings together high-quality resources for anyone who has started peer support projects and is seeking to measure, evaluate, sustain and grow their work.
The hub collates, curates and categorises the best quality information and evidence together in one place, including peer reviewed research evidence but also the best quality of ‘grey literature’ generated by practitioners.
Communities of practice are also invited to upload their own resources to share with others.
For National Voices this builds on a track record of work with our charity members to explore and advocate ‘what works’ in person-centred care.
Together with Nesta, in 2015 we published Peer support: What is it and does it work?, an analysis of more than 1,000 studies that showed peer support is effective in many formats and for people with a variety of conditions.
Through a community of practice in our Wellbeing Our Way programme we generated examples of successful practice.
And the Realising the Value programme in which we partnered generated an economic toolkit for commissioners, produced by the PPL consultancy, which suggests that providing carefully targeted peer support and self-management education could save a clinical commissioning group over £5 million a year.
A summary of the value of peer support is that learning from and being supported by other people ‘like me’, above all sustains people’s confidence and determination to manage their lives with long-term conditions, for example by following through on decisions and courses of action such as changes to diet, exercise and self-care.
James Sanderson, NHS England’s director for personalised care, says the NHS Long Term Plan should, over the next five years, make this ‘business as usual’ for millions of people using the NHS:
“We have called for peer support to be ‘systematically put in place’ to help people with their self-management whatever their circumstances, and we welcome this new hub as a resource for the peer support community who want to provide high quality support in their own areas.”
Don Redding is director of policy and partnerships at National Voices. Follow him on Twitter @MightyDredd and National Voices @NVTweeting
Visit the Peer Support Hub, an online bank of resources for people for people running #peersupport programmes