Peer support workers in eating disorder services
The South East Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) (Wessex, Oxford and Kent Surrey Sussex) have recently undertaken research to explore the potential role of peer support in the management of eating disorders.
Three surveys (one staff survey and two patient surveys) of over 100 respondents in our regions have gathered the views and experiences of service users, carers and NHS employees towards peer support.
Peer support workers (PSW) are people who are integrated into the care team to help support mental health service users and their families. PSW often have experienced the particular conditions themselves and therefore are able to empathise and offer a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by service users. While peer support is not currently part of the early intervention pathway, it is seen as having the potential to work well within an eating disorder service.
Our surveys found that:
- 50% of child and adolescent mental health services users (CAMHS), 81% of adult eating disorder service users and 100% of carers say they think having a peer support worker is a good idea;
- Service users and carers say that support from a peer support worker would be most useful for: helping with practical activities like budgeting and organisation, talking about medication and treatment options, liaising with education and using positive, non-medical language;
- Most respondents in the staff survey say they think that peer support will be effective within eating disorders;
- 100% of staff with peer support work experience and 96% without experience express potential interest in implementing/ learning about the role of peer support workers in the eating disorder pathway.
Download the full survey objectives, methodology and analysis here.
Peer Support in Eating Disorders Services Webinar – watch now
We held our final event for the national FREED programme (early intervention in eating disorders) in March 2023, in collaboration with Wessex and Oxford AHSNs.
Throughout the duration of the national programme, we have worked closely across the South East to develop an established and engaged Community of Practice, with representation from eating disorder services across the region.
The webinar offered an opportunity to hear from peer support workers sharing their lived experiences and some of the practical support available. There were a range of presentation topics, including: organisational readiness and framework for implementation, training and supervision, B-EAT Peer Support Worker (PSW) training pilot and services sharing experience of existing implementation. The webinar also offered an opportunity to make connections to continue conversations that might enable the adoption of new innovation and approaches to delivering early intervention in eating disorders across the South East.