Journey to becoming a Peer Leader for the NHS

Hi my name is Catherine, and I’m a Peer Leader. I completed all three steps of the Peer Leadership Development Programme in August 2022. Since then, my confidence has gone from strength to strength.

I’m part of a great group of people (Stronger Together Group) who all went through the Steps together in the Peer Leadership Development Programme, and we all want to make a difference in the Wakefield area. We meet regularly to support and discuss how we can help make improvements together. We are quickly gathering momentum with lots of curiosity sparked about the group,

I first heard about the Peer Leadership Development Programme through a colleague working in the West Yorkshire area, who supported and encouraged me to join. This, along with the support from a close working colleague, meant I was able to complete the Steps, to feel like the protected time and space was provided and really enabled me to get the most out of the programme including meeting like-minded people, who are equally as passionate and committed as I am.

I’ve had lots of valuable opportunities to share my own lived experience in strategic-level meetings including the West Yorkshire Integrated Care Long Term Conditions and Personalised Care board meeting, the Academic Health Science Network – Inclusive Innovation and Improvement meeting, Wakefield’s Patient Experience Group, the Learning Disabilities and Autism partnership board meeting and more recently North East and Yorkshire Primary Care and Community Services events. All of which had high numbers of attendance, with senior leaders present.

Here I’ve had the opportunity to talk about my personal lived experience of living with a learning disability. I’m very passionate about making a difference, and always do my very best to proudly advocate for positive change to help myself but also others living with a learning disability too.

For me it is so important to ensure that awareness is raised around annual health checks for people with a learning disability and that reasonable adjustments are made, including the use of Easy Read documents – of which I’m really proud to be part of a reader panel in the Wakefield area for this, so I’m truly at the heart of ensuring documentation is understood by the majority and not just the minority.

As well as ensuring people with learning disabilities truly feel part of their health and care needs, it’s about understanding what matters to each individual and time given to everyone to enable people to feel more in control of their choices, including setting their own personal goals.

Since I’ve completed the Programme, my confidence has improved, and I’ve started a new role which I’m really proud of. I’ve also recently been so lucky to attend the Health Inequalities Summit where I was fortunate enough to meet the Duchess of Edinburgh, which was a wonderful once in a lifetime opportunity for me. It even ended up in the national press!

I am so proud of myself for sharing insights about my work and stressing the importance of personalised care for people with a learning disability. It’s important for me to be the voice for people who may not be heard. Doing the Peer Leadership Development Programme is one of the biggest achievements of my life, that alongside recently being awarded the ‘Outstanding achievement’ award from Wakefield District Health and Care Partnership.

Being a Peer Leader makes me feel very proud, it’s a great opportunity and really helps me to help others as well as myself. I hope to inspire others to do the programme, and to feel like they have more choice and control over their own health and care needs.

With the NHS celebrating its 75th year, I’m excited for the future and the possibilities for me to continue to shape the future of health and care.

This quote from author Roy T Bennett sums it up for me:

“Believe in your heart that you’re meant to live a life full of passion, purpose, magic and miracles.”

Catherine Horbury

Catherine Horbury is a Peer Support Worker for Horizons in Wakefield, in addition to being a Peer Leader on a voluntary basis for Wakefield District Health and Care Partnership.

Catherine is an advocate for people with Learning Disabilities and has her own lived experience of living with a Learning Disability.