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Meet the team: #virtualpeersupport


  • Prostate Cancer UK peer support staff

Prostate Cancer UK supports the provision of a range of peer support options for men affected by prostate cancer and their families. This currently includes telephone based one to one peer support and an online community.  Currently we are running a small trial offering group based support using a video conferencing platform. We are particularly interested in the potential opportunities that video conferencing may provide in enabling peer support for people who may find it hard to find people with particular shared experiences in their own local communities.

We know from many years of working with independent face to face support groups for people affected by prostate cancer that they are not proportionally accessed by gay and bisexual men, men on active surveillance, younger/working men, black men or transgender women and we know that while many groups welcome partners they may not offer opportunities for partners to share conversations about their experiences in a forum separate from their partners. We also know that there are many people who do not live close enough to a support group to be able to attend. Video conferencing could offer the possibility of group based support in a more accessible format for some people.

We want to explore:

Whether this form of group based support is appealing to people

The potential barriers to accessing it and how we could resolve these

The sustainability of this model of support

The development of helpful guidance around offering and using video based peer support

We have found it hard to identify anyone else in the UK who is facilitating video based group support so we are keen that by trialling this approach we can provide insight and learning for others looking to extend the availability of group support in their own areas.

As an additional strand of investigation we want to explore people’s use of different formats of peer support – do people have a preference for one type over another or do they use a variety and what drives that preference. This will also give us a baseline to help us consider over time if and how increasing familiarity with digital technology might change the way people choose to access peer support

How you can contribute

  • We would be interested in collaborating with other peer support providers who either already use video based group support and are willing to share learning or who are interested in trialling this approach with their own client group to form a comparison.
  • We are also interested in information from anyone else who has tried a video based approach to group based support and who would be happy to share their approach or experience of it.
  • We would be interested to hear if people think that the scope of this is too broad - would it benefit from being narrowed down?


  1. Maybe the measures is where these projects would overlap and that is an area where we could consider. By using similar measures to compare these types of peer support in you patient and my case staff groups.

    1. Hi Susan - yes definitely would be happy to consider that


  2. Do you have an measure of how this compares to face to face peer support? I am concerned that we may be continuing to have a barrier to the amount of support achieved. Thanks

    1. Good questions Susan - at the moment we don't - its one of the things we would want to develop as part of our bid

  3. Hi again Ann - I just found this online and thought it might be helpful, section 6 in particular:

    'Using Skype for Peer Support: A toolkit'


    1. Cheers Hawys! Will take a look at that. And thanks for your previous comments as well - all really useful feedback for me in formulating a fuller bid :)

  4. Hi Ann. Great to see your peer support bid. Good practice guidance for digital ways of delivering peer support isn’t something I came across during the Q Lab peer support work, and it does seem that it would be useful as many Lab participants have had questions about this along the way. I think you’re asking a good set of research questions and I’d be interested in your outputs. The question about whether this would be appealing to people is really interesting – you may find that you’ll be able to identify / hypothesize what kind of people this would be appealing to, and also, conversely, what kinds of people this might not be appealing to. Also, I think you might already be covering this in the ‘helpful guidance’ and ‘barriers’ questions, but I think it would be interesting to look at how this type of interface would alter the interactions, behaviours and ways people communicate and how the design of the video peer support session would need to take this into account and adjust for it. For example, we rely a lot on silent queues such as body language to know when it’s appropriate to speak, so how would a video group session best adapt to this when people are bound into little boxes on a screen or don’t have their cameras switched on? I find this area in general really fascinating – video conferences are almost like in-person interactions, but even if you’re digitally face to face, it’s still not quite the same as being in the same room. I’m sure that companies that provide video-call technologies are constantly working on how to make this more like being there, in person, but for now, it provides an interesting design challenge for peer support!

  5. Hi Ann, wondering if you would be willing and able to help give some critical challenge and your insights into our Forth Valley application to Q Exchange? The information that you've posted on the QLab site suggests to me that we'd value your experience. The idea is about using GP practice based navigation (part of the national Practice Administrative Services Collaborative)  and the concept that we're developing of a community front door,  to build use of peer support. At the same time we'd be interested in collaborating with you on the place of video based support groups - particularly if through existing platforms or apps that we're aware of. #open front door

    1. Hi Susan - yes happy to discuss all this further! Will take a look at your proposal and happy to arrange a chat

  6. This is an opportunity for some many support methods especially where time is pressured and face to face meets ups are difficult. My bid is around staff specifically Junior doctors and this kind of idea could be so helpful

    PS I'm not very good with computers and managed to use Zoom recently for a meeting. preferred it too Webex. Theres a google version called hang out

    1. Hi Susan - my apologies, I thought I had sent a reply a few days ago but realise I must not have posted it! I think VC based peer support could work very well for your idea of support for junior doctors. We have been using GoToMeeting, which I think some people find easier than Webex as well. We decided against google hangouts for ours as it gave less anonymity and we wanted people to be able to use aliases and not be identifiable via an email address for our trial group but this would probably be less important dependent on the group.


  7. Ann, The Q Team use Zoom so they may be able to offer some advice. In my experience it takes some time to get all users au fait with whatever video application you use - that is the hard bit particularly when group members are continually coming and going. Regards Tom

    1. Thanks Thomas. We have used GoTo Meeting for the small trial we've done so I might take a look at this platform. You're right in that it can take a little while for people to get used to the system and it can prove more challenging when the group participants continually change

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