Humanising health care

7 December 2022

The emergence of experiential practice and leadership in mental health services 

David Gilbert

People with mental health difficulties bring a unique and vital perspective to shaping services. While steps have been taken to embed ‘lived experience’ within mental health services, these opportunities can often feel tokenistic, and maintain the unequal power dynamics between clinicians and ‘patients’.

In this paper, David Gilbert uses his insights as a mental health service user and his experience in Patient Leadership to consider the limitations of current practice, and the possibilities of a new approach which could transform mental health services.

While most mental health services now have embedded peer support roles, Humanising health care argues that a more radical shift is needed, with expanded opportunities for ‘lived experience’ contributions at all levels of the system – from peer support to governance and strategic leadership.

David proposes that we reframe patient leadership and lived experience practice as ‘Experiential Practice and Leadership’, as a means of shifting the agenda to reform the workforce systemically and ultimately create better and more responsive mental health services.

Title: Lived experience leadership in mental health Quote: Expanding patient leadership could threaten many in power who will hide their fears behind 'concerns' and erroneous assumptions about the work. But ultimately, it could lead to a new era of health care practice". Image: David Gilbert

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