How co-production has changed my life, and many others | Our latest updates

How co-production has changed my life, and many others

crisis response team stood next to crisis response vehicle

For those who are not familiar with the term “co-production”,  this is when NHS services or teams work alongside people with lived experience of using that particular service, to either improve the service, make adaptations or develop new services. NHFT has been using co-production across services for almost ten years. By combining clinical expertise with the experiences of services users, the hope is that more patients and service users will have a positive experience receiving treatment at NHFT. This week, we will be sharing five different examples of how different service areas have used co-production to develop or improve services, and you will hear from those who have been involved.

“This project gave me so much. I felt valued with my thoughts and my ideas. Knowing that I helped create and develop a service that will help so many people in mental health crisis where I once was, just fills me with joy.”

At Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, co-production is at the heart of service design and improvement. This means working with patients, carers, service users and co-production groups, when designing new services and improving existing services. Whilst medical professionals have clinical expertise in the treatment of patients, the views of service users, combined with this medical expertise, aim to deliver a more holistic patient experience.

When the Mental Health directorate took steps to introduce a new ‘mental health ambulance’ known as the Crisis Response Unit (CRU) in 2023, the views and experiences of service users and carers were paramount to getting the service design right for patients in mental health crisis.

Sophie Green is now employed as a Lived Experience Lead at NHFT, having previously accessed NHFT mental health crisis services as a service user. Sophie explains that it wasn’t just about putting mental health professionals in a van on the road, the detail is important. What should the service be called? What does the van look like? Is it clinical? Does it include NHS branding? Do the staff wear uniforms? What does it look and feel like when it turns up to someone in a mental health crisis? All of these things were carefully considered in the service development.

When EMAS receive a mental health crisis call, its is triaged to ensure there are no physical health needs, and providing there are no other concerns, the patient can be referred to the CRU team, enabling the EMAS team to attend to other physical health priority calls. This means specialist mental health professionals can support the patient, and an emergency A&E admission can be avoided, which again, means better support for the patient.

Sophie was fortunate enough to shadow some paramedics with the East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS) as part of the service design work. She was able to gain insights and share observations from this and bring elements across to the Crisis Response Unit team.

The Crisis Response Unit has been in operation for a year now, and the co-production work continues. EMAS work closely with the CRU team and have provided feedback which includes:

“I used this service early June time and it was fantastic! We were on scene approximately 30-40 minutes trying very hard with a patient but unfortunately, they wouldn't cooperate. We rang the Mental Health Team and they were with us within 45 minutes. Upon their arrival, I handed over and they allowed us to leave. The service stopped us from needing to call the police - a resource that wasn't relevant but have been our only other option.”

Sophie is incredibly passionate about the continued development and improvement of the CRU service, and the potential it has to support people who find themselves in the position she once found herself in.

Personally, for Sophie, the opportunity to be so involved in co-producing this service has been life changing for her, “I’ve grown as a person, I feel like I’ve finally gained my wings in life and learned to fly”.

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