We’re better when we work together 

24 May 2022

We’re better when we work together 

In her first blog as Cheshire and Wirral Partnership’s new deputy CEO, Suzanne Edwards discusses the importance of the newly formed Cheshire and Wirral Community Wellbeing Alliance and how now is the time to change community mental health services for the better…

For most people with severe mental illness, the diagnosed problem isn’t all they need or want help with. People tell us that they want mental health services that go beyond symptoms and illnesses, that see the person and not the diagnosis. They rightly expect care services to meet their needs and not for them to meet referral criteria.

This is why the NHS Long Term Plan is so important for mental health. It has given us the opportunity to take a step back and listen to people with lived experience, health and social care professionals and expertise from the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector to help us focus on getting it right for people early on. We all know with any health condition; early intervention can make a world of difference.

As an NHS organisation, it’s also important for us to know that we can’t improve people’s experience alone, as the drivers for poor mental health are so multifaceted. That is why I’m delighted we have such excellent local and community partners who we are working alongside, under the umbrella of the newly formed Cheshire and Wirral Community Wellbeing Alliance.

Health and social care professionals work extraordinarily hard to get the best for people in their care and as part of the Alliance, will have easier access to complementary support to address wider factors impacting on people’s mental health, such as housing advice, financial support and help with social issues. Equally people should feel confident that if they no longer require specialist mental health support, they will be able to access care quickly again in the future if their mental health declines and not have to start their journey again from scratch.

The voices of people with lived experience are central to the partnership. I’m pleased we have been able to work with Rethink Mental Health to appoint Experts by Experience, ensuring that moving forward people accessing services and carers are equal partners in the design and delivery of their care.

Everyone involved in caring for people has a role to play:

  • Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector who have a key role supporting people with holistic care, tackling some of the key drivers for poor mental health like loneliness and welfare issues. Also sharing their expertise in helping to reach under-served communities that may be missed by mainstream services;
  • Local authorities to support access to social care, housing, drug and alcohol services, and financial advice for people with severe mental illness;
  • Primary care providers like GPs and pharmacies, to identify patient needs early and partner with teams that have specialist mental health expertise;
  • Specialist care providers, like CWP to remove barriers to access support and to provide more personalised interventions by partnering with different organisations;
  • Service users and carers to provide lived experience expertise, helping to co-design and co-produce the new way forward, and work with them to offer peer support for others on a similar journey.

Within a siloed system each service is separate and has its own eligibility criteria, assessment processes, and data systems. This means people with severe mental illness don’t always get the support that they need or that makes a difference to their wellbeing. Under the umbrella, we’re better when we work together, and this will help to improve outcomes for people and their families.

Join us to hear more about the programme and share your views at our upcoming community engagement sessions. Everyone is welcome and your contribution really will impact how we plan community mental health care in the future. Please note that details of specific health and social care staff events will be announced separately.

Ultimately, the core aim is to make sure people get support in a place that's right for them to keep well - supporting peoples’ mental health, physical health and social needs. We know that taking this approach will take time and still needs further refinement as we continue to talk to people about what will make the biggest difference to them. However, I’m proud of the positive steps the Alliance is taking and want to thank everyone involved in the programme so far. I’m excited  at the possibilities that this alliance presents and to working alongside our many partners to make a real difference.

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