How patient feedback has improved mental health services for children and young people

October 5, 2022

Young people who have experienced mental health issues are helping others going through similar difficulties, as part of a series of improvements to the Forward Thinking Birmingham (FTB) mental health support service for children and young people in the city.

Involving those with lived experience in designing and delivering mental health care was suggested by some of the patients and carers Healthwatch Birmingham interviewed for our original investigation into failings at FTB, published in October 2021.

Established as a direct response our report, the Peer Support Worker (PSW) programme at FTB has now recruited 11 people – with five more in training – who have previously accessed mental health services themselves to paid roles on the psychosis and eating disorder care pathways.

The PSWs provide pastoral support and understanding to current patients by discussing their own experiences and help to build the young people’s physical health and confidence through activities such as physical exercise and social activities. A key message they provide to patients and their families is that of hope and are an example of the recovery young people can make after experiencing mental health challenges in their lives.

Following engagement with service users, their families/carers and Healthwatch Birmingham, FTB has also made a number of other important changes, which are detailed in our new impact report.

These include:

  • Co-production with patients and carers, for example young people with lived experience designing training modules for staff.
  • Better communication with patients and families, including improvements to the FTB website and reviews of clinical letters sent to patients.
  • Funding for FTB staff to ensure greater consistency and variety of roles, alongside more student nurse placements.
  • Increased staff awareness in working with patients with various needs, such as training in autism, reflective practice sessions and motivational interview training for support staff and clinicians.

Read the full report

“We are pleased that Forward Thinking Birmingham has recognised the need for change and welcome the initiatives they have announced. But these strong steps towards addressing some of the issues identified in our original investigation need to be the start of an embedded process which will also tackle the real problems that young people and their families continue to report to Healthwatch around response times, the difficulties they face in getting timely appointments and referrals.

The success of the Peer Support Worker programme shows the benefit of engaging with those with lived experience of mental health issues for both patients and the service itself. The crisis in mental health services extends far beyond those in Birmingham and requires concerted efforts from the Government and NHS England to resolve. Both have said improving mental health services is a priority for them and those words must be reflected in action. But the improvements that have begun at Forward Thinking Birmingham show that change is possible when feedback from service users is both respected and acted upon.”

  • Richard Burden, Chair, Healthwatch Birmingham

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