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Trust helps mental health patients overcome barriers to employment

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A nursing leader has told how a new programme at her trust to support people back into employment following an episode of serious mental illness is allowing patients to rebuild confidence and “move on with their lives”.

The 2gether NHS Foundation Trust in Herefordshire is due to roll out the programme in full this month after a successful pilot launched in October last year helped around 10 people access work. 

“It’s about gaining those skills again and helping them to feel more confident in themselves”

Sarah Lewis 

The scheme has seen the trust working in partnership with Landau, a charity which supports people to overcome barriers into work, to help prepare patients for interviews and facilitate a smooth transition back into working life following an episode of severe mental ill health such as psychosis.

The service is being delivered by senior employment specialist Jan Hadfield at Landau, who works with patients in the community across the county. 

Funding for the role has been provided by the NHS as part of a national scheme aiming to help 55,000 people a year into competitive and sustainable employment by 2023-24, and 115,000 per year by the end of the next decade.

The service at 2gether is overseen by Sarah Lewis, a nurse by background and team manager for the trust’s early intervention team in Hereford, who acts as Ms Hadfield’s supervisor and works with her to discuss who would be suitable for the programme.

sarah lewis

sarah lewis

Sarah Lewis from 2gether NHS Foundation Trust

Ms Lewis, who has 36 years’ experience in nursing and has worked within mental health for 25 years, told Nursing Times that the scheme had helped patients gain the skills needed to get a job after an episode of illness.

“It’s about gaining those skills again and helping them to feel more confident in themselves,” said Ms Lewis.

“People have been able to move on with their lives and that’s the most important thing, because quite often for people with first episode psychosis, a large percent of people do recover, but they need everything in place for that to happen.”

As well as getting people into new roles, Ms Lewis said the programme also helped some patients renegotiate their current employment.

“Volunteering is a fantastic way of engaging in routine and a social interaction”

Sarah Lewis 

“Sometimes you don’t always have that negotiation between employers, and so it’s been fantastic to have someone that’s got all those skills, knows the background, knows the employment law as well, and support our clients to get back to work,” she said. 

“Now we’ve got a specialist in the team who can advise clients and can support them through that process, which is brilliant. The results have been fantastic.”

The scheme also supported people with mental illness into voluntary roles to help them reintegrate back into society, said Ms Lewis. 

“We help to build their confidence and self-esteem, because that’s been a huge thing with people who have had a psychotic illness,” she added. “Volunteering is a fantastic way of engaging in routine and a social interaction, which has been so important for our clients.”

So far, the scheme has managed to get around 10 people back into full-time work or voluntary work.

Due to the success, two additional workers are set to join the employment team at the trust to allow for the programme be rolled out fully. 

Sonia Roberts, chief executive at Landau, said the charity was “delighted” to be working with the trust on this “exciting opportunity”.

“We know how valuable our employment specialists are in supporting both the patient to find sustainable employment and for employers to reach into the untapped potential of the patients we support,” she said. 

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