NSUN: User voice and mental health

For me, one of the privileges of my work is that I get to meet lots of interesting people and organisations who are doing some fantastic work.

I met one such organisation earlier this week: the National Survivor User Network (NSUN), based in Vauxhall, south east London. NSUN was created to provide survivors and users of mental health services a stronger voice in shaping mental health policy and services at national, regional and local level. It does this by bringing together and networking individuals and organisations across England to learn from each other, share good practice and undertake influencing work.

Amongst many good things that a recent evaluation of NSUN highlighted, it noted that:

  • Commissioners and policy makers believe that the voice of the service user is “undoubtedly stronger” as a result of NSUN
  • NSUN has created a framework for service user involvement that makes it easier for service users and commissioners to work together and to sustain this engagement

As a result, far more people have been engaged and involved in shaping services that wouldn’t have otherwise had chance to.

Part of the strength of NSUN – alongside being run and controlled by mental health system survivors and users – is its focus on what it wants to do and where it wants to be. I think the summary of their strategy for 2011-16 (which can be accessed here) is a very good example of a strategic plan that tells an excellent story whilst being specific about what it will do and how, as well as knowing what success looks like.

Similarly – and, in my experience, unusually – there is a robust risk management and exit strategy. Obviously, the hope is that this would never be used, but it’s a very clear document that explains what NSUN would do if it found itself in difficulty.

I suspect the reason for having such a good document is the strength of the administration within NSUN – an undervalued but crucial element to the success of any organisation. NSUN have said they’re happy for me to share it – please see below.

Capturing, understanding and aggregating the voice of service users (across all areas of life) is a notoriously difficult thing to do. Not everyone will agree with the final output, quite aside from different views on the system they’re trying to work with or change. In a difficult landscape, NSUN feels to be an excellent example of what’s possible.

For more information about NSUN, please visit their website.

(Please note: this is a personal post!)

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rich_w

Man of letters & numbers; also occasionally of action. Husband to NTW. Dad of three. Friendly geek.

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