Aintree event sees co-design’s importance highlighted

Service-users, carers, staff, and the public came together recently at Aintree Racecourse for a ‘Members’ Event’ organised by Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust – a regular and enthusiastic attender at the Design In Mental Health conference, exhibition, and awards.

One attendee with strong links to the area was DiMHN President, Joe Forster, who said: “Mersey Care’s members are key to the Trust’s community engagement. Members elect a Council of Governors to hold the non-executive directors to account for the Trust board’s performance. Nearly 100 members came together to hear reports from the chief operating officer of each clinical division. Managers and directors spoke about the Trust’s work, and took many lively and searching questions.”

The Trust says its approach to design ‘is crucial’ in its creation of ‘comfortable, modern environments that support recovery’. Trust chairman, Beatrice Fraenkel, told The Network: “The foundation of commissioning our healthcare buildings is the involvement of service-users, staff, community, procurement, estates, and finance personnel at the beginning, all acting as a different facet of being a client.”

A Design Champions Group ensures that all stakeholders are actively involved throughout the design process. Through a combined programme of new building and refurbishment, the Trust seeks to provide for a step change in care and preparation for sustainable life beyond care. Alongside using inpatient hospitals, community integration is enhanced by the innovative Life Rooms initiative. These locally embedded buildings incorporate Recovery College learning facilities, meeting spaces, IT suites, and advice centres. Elaine Darbyshire, executive director of Communication, Engagement and Estates, explained: “They reposition the role of social prescribing at the Trust and with its partners throughout the community.”

The Trust is currently developing design guidance tools to ensure that this quality of insight is built into all its estates development programmes. Formal evaluation and learning is being built into the guidance to ensure lessons are learned and benefits realised from each estate development.

Joe Forster welcomed progress towards co-production across the mental health sector: “Service-users increasingly take positions as governors, staff members, or directors of Trusts. Their influence need no longer be limited to being consulted by organisations. When incorporated in this way, they become the organisation themselves.”