The Buddy Scheme is an award winning training initiative that offers students from a range of clinical professions the opportunity to learn from those with lived experience through a series of 1:1 and small group sessions. Each session is an in depth discussion focusing on various aspects of a persons experience using mental health services and of their experience living with mental illness, within the context of the family, work and the wider community.
Students are encouraged to enquire with sensitivity and respect, seeing the ‘person behind the patient’, whilst at the same time developing their ability to build trust, rapport and develop their listening and questioning skills.
In 2014, South Essex Partnership Trust (SEPT), now EPUT, and Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) embarked upon a new initiative for trainee mental health nurses, developed at the Kent and Medway NHS Trust. The focus of this initiative was, and still is, to ensure that the education of our future workforce is underpinned by the experience of service users and carers, thus ultimately improving the provision of mental health services.
Since 2014, the Buddy Scheme has continued to grow and develop. From working with five trainee mental health nurses initially in 2014, the Buddy Scheme has grown and today over 75 students who participate in the scheme each year. These students come from a range of professions including trainee occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, mental health nurses and soon IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) trainees.
The Buddy Scheme now includes the experiences and viewpoints of not only service users, but also of carers as well as a ‘holistic’ session that focuses on personal wellbeing and alternative therapeutic options.
Co-production and co-delivery are at the heart of the scheme and it is a great example of the benefits of both and of true partnership working. The team comprises of over 40 volunteer service users and carers, working alongside staff from a variety of teams across EPUT and colleagues from other organisations.
To date, almost 300 students have benefited from participating in the Buddy Scheme. Although we have moved to virtual sessions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the scheme continues to be highly evaluated by students, achieving an average of 9.3/10 overall.
If you would like to find out more about the Buddy Scheme, you can take a look at our video above, but also feel free to get in touch.