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Peer support in Northern Ireland: Knowledge is power

Jacqueline Morton - Head of Continuous Improvement at Southern Trust - reflects on a recent Q Lab workshop and the impact it might have on peer support in Northern Ireland.

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We were delighted in Southern Trust to host a workshop, with the Q Lab team, in Northern Ireland. More than 35 colleagues and service users from across the region came together to share their understanding and personal experience of peer support and “what it would take for effective peer support to be available to everyone who wants it to help manage their long term health and wellbeing needs”.

What was clearly evident was the passion and commitment to the provision of peer support from service users and clinicians in the room. Patients with lived experience, carers and staff showcased the difference that this approach is making to the lives of individuals; their testimonials were powerful to listen to!

What became clearer over the course of the day was the positive impact that peer support was having on individuals who knew how to access it. And herein lies the issue! There appears to be a real lack of clarity of what is available within each of our organisations. Many of our speakers tasked with sharing examples of best practice described the challenge of sourcing this information.

Knowledge is power

If this is a challenge for us then it must certainly be a challenge for our service users, carers and staff. This got me to thinking about how we can make it easy for service users to access peer support. We clearly need an approach that enables our staff to stop, listen and learn from each other.

“People don’t always need advice. Sometimes all they really need is a hand to hold, an ear to listen, and a heart to understand them” Anon

I can and I will…

With this in mind, in Southern Trust, we plan to focus our next Quality Improvement Network session on Peer Support. Our aim will be to make it easy for ALL staff to signpost patient and carers appropriately. Central to this will be testimonials from our service users and carers on the positive impact peer support has had on their lives.

Furthermore, we will use this networking opportunity to showcase what peer support is available within the Trust and with our community partners and organisations. This will provide us with an opportunity to co-design with service users and carers how we can make this information widely and easily available within our local community. Watch this space to hear how we get on.

Download the workshop write-up


  1. Guest

    Eimer McGeown 4 years, 10 months ago

    I really enjoyed the day and have already been net working and arranged a number of forms of peer support for our group of patients..  Pretty 'n' Pink our going to  arrange a tea party for breast cancer patients to come together at the Canal Court in Newry.  I also invited the  new Day Hospice Manager, Victoria Black to our Health and Wellbeing Event on Wednesday evening and during same we had the chance to discuss how the Day Centre in Newry could support cancer survivors through peer support services.

  2. Jacqueline

    I stumbled on this piece of work this evening.  I'm a GP in Portadown and medical adviser HSCB.  I have been mulling over some thoughts of similar project but in Primary Care (bringing together peer support mainly from GPs, Pharmacy, Ophthalmology and Dentistry) and would equally want to work with other stakeholders especially Southern Trust.  I'm meeting with a local pharmacist tomorrow to see how we might start a movement and bridge our own professional roles and boundaries.      Even the concept described making it easier for us as care givers to signpost patients and carers to appropriate services and support would be useful.  Happy to chat anytime as maybe our thoughts of improvement are not too disconnected at present?

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