Kelly Phizacklea reflects on her experience of becoming the 200th peer leader as part of NHS England’s Peer Leadership Development programme.
There has never been a more important time to help shape and influence how health and care is delivered in England. Demand for health and care services has increased in recent years, especially since the pandemic. It’s really highlighted what works well and what can be improved in the NHS to make services better for patients.
This is where peer leaders come in; they are people with lived experience who are committed to working collaboratively with the health and care system to shape and influence how services are delivered. It makes sense that the only way to ensure that our NHS meets everyone’s needs is to involve people who use our services, especially those who are living with a long-term health condition, disabled people, and family carers.
For the last few years, the Personalised Care group at NHS England and NHS Improvement has been running a hugely successful and inclusive programme to develop peer leaders who are already active at a national, regional, and local level.
In February 2022, I became the 200th peer leader to complete the programme.
I have personal experience following a complex pregnancy, which resulted in my daughter spending the first three months of her life in neonatal intensive care and most recently requiring major surgery.
Due to my experiences, I am involved in the Maternity Transformation programme with NHS England and NHS Improvement, and because of this I was made aware of the opportunity to become a peer leader. I was encouraged to join and felt, because I had the personal experience, it would help me develop knowledge and skills to enable me to offer support to others.
I was also interested in learning from a wider perspective whilst building upon my existing knowledge and developing in other areas such as learning about personal health budgets and social prescribing.
The development programme provides knowledge of the NHS as a whole, including personalised care, shared decision making and more whilst teaching you how they all work in practice. The course is delivered in bitesize chunks using language that is easy to understand, and it also includes videos with subtitles and transcripts. It is free to join and consists of a mixture of blended learning, making the course as accessible as possible.
Personally, the course provided me with insight on terminology and videos to support some of the learning points. I found it particularly useful and helpful when learning about things such as the social construction of disability. It also provided me with further insights on commissioning and legislation.
The Peer Leadership Development programme also taught me about the complexities of change and that patients with long-term conditions should be viewed as the experts by experience. It also inspired me to learn from others, including services that have improved and how such learning can be transferable irrespective of the speciality concerned.
This programme will provide anyone with support and knowledge that is highly relevant to paid and voluntary roles within the NHS. I now support on the Neonatal Intensive Care unit once a fortnight providing support and speaking with families at my local hospital. The programme provided me with so much more information that empowered me to do this. I am also an active member of the Patient Participation group and I am now proud to be part of the pioneer cohort of peer leaders, meaning I’m one of the first to take Step 4 of the programme!
The sessions build upon your knowledge, whilst offering a different perspective. I would advise anyone considering joining the programme to be open to learning, and don’t be deterred from joining even if you have no detailed knowledge of healthcare systems.
It supports and builds a deeper level of understanding, enabling you to advocate for whatever your personal reasons for joining may be.
For more information on the Peer Leadership programme and how to join email firstname.lastname@example.org