Peer support is a key component in managing the physical and emotional well-being of people living with long term conditions. The Service Specification for Specialised HIV Services for Adults (2013), BHIVA Standards of Care for People Living with HIV (2013) and NHS 5-year Forward View (2014) all recognise the role of peer support within the patient care pathway. ‘What do You Need’ (Sigma Research 2009) reports that peer support would help with areas of self-confidence, emotional well-being and social inclusion. Positively UK’s evaluation of its wider peer support programme found that 95% of people reported increase well-being as a result of peer interventions (Improving Well-Being, Positively UK, 2014). Our external evaluation published in January 2014 demonstrated that peer support improved people’s ability to manage HIV as a long-term condition alongside emotional well-being.
National Voices recent report: ‘Peer Support – what is it and does it work’ brought together evidence from over 1000 research studies on the topic. While the report finds that more evidence is needed for the wider impact of peer support, Project 100 will utilise proven strategies and methods to ensure robust and effective support. Furthermore, the Programme will be fully evaluated to demonstrate cost effectiveness as well as positive outcomes for mentors and mentees alike.
The easiest way to ensure that every person diagnosed with HIV has access to support would be to provide all HIV clinics with dedicated peer mentors. Healthcare professionals would then refer those patients who are newly diagnosed, about to start treatment, or who would simply benefit from talking to someone else living with HIV about their experiences.
Project 100 will partner with clinical services and voluntary sector organisations to create clear and effective referral pathways and line management responsibilities. We will also provide training for local voluntary sector organisations and clinics on how to manage and support peer mentors, both inside and out of the clinic. Given the continuing rise in number of people living and growing older with HIV and the move towards greater integration of health and social care services, Project 100 is perfectly placed to support people to live well with HIV.
Project 100 is keen to work with local partners to develop their capacity to provide effective peer mentoring. Project 100 will therefore provide training and support on setting up and managing a peer mentoring programme in a clinical setting.
The benefits and positive outcomes of peer support for patients are already evident in clinics where Patient Representatives are employed and has been demonstrated by our Homerton Hospital pilot project. With the ongoing cost pressures within the NHS, it is crucial that health care providers spend their time on those areas which require their clinical expertise, and not the day-to-day ‘living with’ issues that can potentially take up much of a consultation. Task-shifting via peer-led interventions has long been shown to be both cost-effective and beneficial to patients (both those receiving and delivering the support) in developing countries. In-house peer support has the potential to provide a win/win scenario for patients and clinicians. It also creates stronger links and referral pathways to your local voluntary sector organisations, who are often best equipped to deal with issues such as benefits, housing and immigration.
Partner NHS providers can refer potential or existing volunteers to our Peer Mentor training and access our Volunteer Coordination training. Training is delivered via a combination of face-to-face peer delivered teaching (approximately 2.5 days) and online learning modules. We will provide peer mentor training in sites across the UK to maximise the potential for national coverage.