Drawing on experience to help and guide others

In the January 2020 The Network, Katharine Lazenby, who spent more time in her 20s in mental healthcare facilities than at home, but is now on the road to recovery, discussed with editor, Jonathan Baillie, some of her at times challenging and difficult experiences as an inpatient service-user. In the discussion’s second part – reported on here – she talked enthusiastically about her recent work – through, for example, conference speaking, teaching, and volunteering, to help those with mental ill health regain their equilibrium.

Having spent the first half of our discussion in London just before Christmas last year talking about her own inpatient service-user experiences, I asked Katharine Lazenby to move on to tell me a little about her recent work – drawing on those experiences – helping other service-users, an area on which she has focused particularly in the past 2-3 years. It rapidly became clear that she believes firmly in giving those who use and stay in mental healthcare facilities a ‘voice’. She said: “For example, I am involved with an initiative called ‘People Participation’. It is part of the NHS, and there are People Participation Groups throughout the service across England, I believe. The Group that I work with is run by the East London NHS Foundation Trust, and has a lot of mental health service-users involved. It gives them a voice on how services are shaped and delivered; for example, you can sit on interview panels for different NHS staff, which I have done quite a lot, attending interviews for nurses, consultants, and ward doctors etc. In fact, I believe it should be mandatory for all Trusts to have a service-user representative involved in all recruitment, since we are ultimately the people who will benefit from the work that the staff do”

The East London NHS Foundation Trust had, she explained, been ‘great at promoting the service-user voice’, and giving service-users an opportunity for involvement in the review and commissioning of services. Katharine

A two-day process

Katharine Lazenby about to deliver her speech at the 2019 DiMH Conference in Coventry.

Lazenby has also participated in hospital inspections under the PLACE (Patient-Led Assessments of the Care Environment) programme. “I have done a few PLACE assessments, and found them very interesting,” she explained. “You’re looking at things like cleanliness, and how the inpatient environment is maintained, plus how therapeutic it actually is.

“The inspections typically take place over two days. You have to assess every aspect of the site – not just the individual wards, but also the grounds, the canteen, and the communal, general, and therapeutic buildings. You go onto a ward and ask to see all the communal areas, and to visit two patient bedrooms. I tend to prefer the patient being there, and you are free to ask questions. I try to interact, because I like to make service-users feel we are not scrutinising them. I typically ask how comfortable they are, and what they think of the environment. Generally,” she continued, “you visit with other Estates people, and others, with at least one service-user representative always involved. The PLACE assessment team usually also includes a clinical representative from elsewhere in the Trust. I have found undertaking the inspections fascinating.” “Following a PLACE visit,” Katharine Lazenby explained, “you can comment on anything from the décor, to the food, to the floor’s cleanliness. After inspecting, we complete paperwork, but also give verbal feedback to representatives from all the wards, the aim being to offer constructive comment. Most staff are receptive. On the last assessment we saw quite a few ‘quiet rooms’, intended to be calm and reflective spaces, but in fact uninspiring, boring, empty rooms. I explained politely that – although I gather they are well used – these rooms are not

A selection of photos relating to the Photography course Katharine teaches at the City & Hackney Recovery College. THE NETWORK | APRIL 2020 11

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