Coproducing LISTEN

A system wide model for mental health crisis care.

By May 2013 Suffolk User Forum had received many reports of poor care and support by the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust’s (NSFT) Crisis Team, with. Service users reaching out for specialist help and support for extreme distress and suicidal feelings were being told to ‘make a cup of tea’, to ‘go for a walk’ or to ‘take a bath’. The impact of this poor crisis response was raised in the press when Suffolk User Forum supported a service user in May 2013, to tell their story on BBC Radio Suffolk

NSFT senior leadership agreed a series of coproduction meetings which involved 45 service users and family carers, supported by Suffolk User Forum. Together we built an understanding of service users crisis care experiences, complaints made to the Trust about poor crisis care, and how this had impacted on people’s mental health. We explored best practice nationally, drawing together a shared vision for what good crisis care and support looked like. Working together with service users, mental health professionals and clinicians, the service users involved coproduced a new approach to crisis care and LISTEN was co-created.

LISTEN responded to service users expressed crisis care needs, prompting a structured and supportive response for people in extreme distress. underpinning the need for professionals to really listen, to validate feelings and experiences, building shared understanding and agreeing next steps for support to stay safe.

Through sheer determination and a continuous voice, LISTEN has evolved into one of the most powerful and successful coproduction projects in Suffolk. From this early coproduction in 2013, LISTEN has grown to be the model for mental health crisis care in Suffolk. It has been endorsed by Skills for Care, and by 2020 is now embedded in the NSFT crisis response and in the models of crisis care for mental health transformation, for which the new services commence in 2021. It is a coproduction project that has spanned seven years, and now has system wide recognition and value.

The success of LISTEN is that it has been driven by peoples lived experience, a shared understanding of a problem, a shared desire for change, and a commitment to make a difference to support people in distress and mental health crisis.

The challenges have been that a new model and approach cannot be created by coproduction and publications alone. Whilst in 2014/15 posters and cards promoted LISTEN and crisis care values, the longer term and wider embedding of this model would not have taken place without the tireless determination and commitment by service users involved. It has been built by continuous campaigning, to win the hearts and minds of staff, professionals, and commissioners.

Organisations who want to genuinely deliver coproduction need to ensure that they listen, respect and value the service users voice in coproduction and together champion the change. There is a risk that great coproduction can lose momentum and become a task and finish process. We can never lose sight of the greater possibilities and opportunities for further coproduction. This requires individual and organisational bravery and persistence, energy and commitment.

Download the LISTEN poster hereOpens or downloads a document