• Led by the Institute of Mental Health in partnership with Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust.
  • Based at the University of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust.
  • Aimed to promote recovery-focused practice for mental health patients, improving the experience of service users and improving outcomes.
  • Employed and trained peer support workers with personal experience of mental health problems to bridge the gap between health care professionals and mental health service users.

The project aimed to promote recovery-focused practice, improving the experience of service users and improving outcomes, by recruiting, training and employing a team of peer support workers with personal experience of mental health problems.

The project team also prepared participating services through recovery-focused training, and made additional peer supervision available from local service-user and carer organisations.

Key findings

  • The peer support workers built strong relationships with service users, who said they felt more supported and had a better quality of relationship than with other workers.
  • Peer support workers contributed to a 14% reduction in inpatient stays among the clients they worked with, saving around £260,000.
  • The peer support workers were able to influence team practices and had a positive impact on the organisation’s focus on recovery.
  • The role had a very positive impact on peer support workers’ own wellbeing, with many reporting that it had increased their self-esteem, made them feel more socially included and promoted their mental health recovery.


  • The standard referral system, which was not suited to the peer support service. Some clients did not want to engage with peer support because they had not been told what it was or asked if they wanted it.
  • The peer support workers were frustrated by misunderstandings that other professionals had about their role, for example that they were just ‘an extra pair of hands’.
  • Peer support workers had to overcome resistance to change within teams and anxieties that other roles could be threatened.

Who was involved?

The project was led by the Institute of Mental Health (a research and education organisation based at the University of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust that works in partnership with the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health).

They were partnered by:

Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust the University of Nottingham Nottinghamshire County Council Nottinghamshire Advocacy Alliance Making Waves (Nottingham) Carer Federation Ltd.

Supporting dissemination

This project has been given further support through a Spreading Improvement award to help disseminate learning and maximise the impact of the approach across the health service at a local, regional or national level.

Funding will be used to run a series of events to win the support of the Specialist and Older Peoples Services within Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust and adapt generic training to their specialist client groups. These events include:

  • a showcase event to increase understanding and raise awareness of the benefits of peer support
  • smaller targeted workshops within three specialist teams to enhance staff understanding of peer support and address concerns.

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