For Co-Production Week (3-7 July 2023), MFT Advisory Group member Eleanor shares her journey through co-production – at first as a representative, incidental to her job supporting clients with multiple disadvantages to address injustices they had experienced related to mental health issues, then informed by her own experiences of seeking mental health support, taking an active role in developments within the Independent Mental Health Network and more recently by joining MFT’s Advisory Group.
After a career in project management, Eleanor started a new career as a counsellor and worked in prison and probation as a practitioner before taking up a senior role in homelessness and community mental health. She developed a health strategy focusing on wellbeing and a multi-disciplinary team providing mental and physical health support, substance use services and end-of-life care. She also engaged in work to analyse and reduce incidents.
“The deepening of my mental health problems coincided with a period of being triggered by repeated injustices, arising from poor public service governance, inflicted on my clients and staff in criminal justice, homelessness and community mental health projects, where I had instigated various initiatives to involve clients in research, service design, development and training and created roles for peer workers. I joined and then chaired a Patient and Public Voice group, intending to influence services to relieve these injustices.
The training and experiences I gained enabled me to support and lead developments in the Independent Mental Health Network (IMHN), opening doors to further training locally and regionally, and extending my involvement into co-production with health, social care and other services. I would probably not have been able to engage with the support provided by MFT, while waiting for more formal treatment, if I had not developed some awareness through IMHN of local services and followed advice given by other local organisations.
I began participating in MFT’s Advisory Group activities during treatment and have continued to engage. This connected with and reinforced other voluntary activities.
The experience I have gained and the training such as in NHS Leadership and Quality Improvement, peer research and supervision and data analysis has equipped me to undertake occasional rewarded tasks as someone with lived and professional experience.
For me, co-production is an important facet of public engagement. The quality of its products, outcomes and impact depends on taking time to understand what has happened so far, what information is available currently and what the intended aim should be, to develop some unity of purpose that will support those delivering services to improve understanding of needs and the responses that work best for each client, while reducing the burden of obstacles.
I hope that involving us will improve the reach, outcomes and impact of research, providing a stronger knowledge base from which to create improved service designs that focus on relational aspects of care that are driven by values, so that actions become consistent with good practice and sound principles across disciplines and agencies, who exercise reflective practice that includes us towards continual improvement.
I think we will only be able to improve the poor governance that causes many of the problems in our services if we extend public engagement more widely to influence our local and national government. We need our education services to engage learners in citizenship activities from an early age. I can recall a good example we were informed of regarding MFT’s activities with children at school to promote awareness of charities, in which a prize was awarded for the best presentation.
Too often, the social value of various services or activities is under-estimated or ignored in governance and decision-making. Our experience is hard won, and difficult to forget, once learned. It contributes a consistency and value for services, promoting effectiveness and reducing obstacles.”
To find out more about Eleanor’s co-production story, you can watch the video she filmed for the Co-production Collective.
For a wider range of co-production stories and resources, we recommend visiting the Co-production Collective website.
To find out more about the work of our Advisory Group, please visit the Advisory Group and Co-production pages of our website. You can also extend your understanding of our commitment to co-production by reading our blog on our own co-production journey.