Showcasing: Consumer and Carer Council
Nepean Blue Mountains
Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District (NBMLHD) Mental Health Service
Living Well Domain
Putting people first
The Consumer and Carer Council (The Council) is made up of people with lived experience of mental ill-health and of mental health carers as voting members, together with mental health staff in non-voting positions. The CCC aim is to embed co-design with consumers and carers, moving beyond consultation. Its purpose is to improve mental health services through input in service planning, policy development, setting priorities, training and evaluation, and addressing quality issues in the delivery of services. The council consists of six consumers and six carers and receives recurrent funding from the NBMLHD to cover members’ remuneration, capacity building and projects.
The Council is formalised through a Charter, endorsed by NBMLHD Chief Executive that recognises the Council as an equal partner in improving mental health care and operations. Council members believe that the Charter represents one of the state’s more advanced mutual partnerships between consumers, carers and mental health staff as it demonstrates an institutional foundation whereby consumers and carers are embedded in the organisation and co-design is routine.
The key challenge was to develop an advanced mutual partnership between consumers, carers and mental health staff to embed co-design in mental health service improvement. Such an approach would recognise and formalise the lived experience of people with mental health issues and their carers, families and kinship groups as contributing valuable information, expertise and insights into mental health service improvement processes.
In early 2015, a Consumer and Carer Advisory Committee was established as a consultative mechanism. By late 2017, the Committee began recognising the limitations of its consultative role which, by tending to occur too late in improvement processes, failed to maximise the potential of members’ lived experience, knowledge and skills.
The Nepean Blue Mountains Mental Health Service Consumer and Carer Council is an active partnership between mental health consumers and carers and mental health staff to ensure mental health lived experience is routinely embedded in the NBMLHD Mental Health Service through co-production and co-design.
To strengthen its role, the Council, with the Charter, replaced the Consumer and Carer Advisory Committee. The initiative is among the first of its kind in New South Wales and was developed to ensure that local services were person-centred and responsive to local community needs.
The Council meets monthly to help define policy, procedures and offer direction to the NBMLHD with the aim of ensuring that the lived experience voice is heard and acted upon.
The initiative has 12 core members, including two co-chairs and a liaison officer who provides formal communications between the Council and the NBMLHD Mental Health Service. The Council co-chairs aim to also regularly meet with other mental health consumer advocacy groups in other districts around NSW to ensure best practice.
The NBMLHD Mental Health Service also provides administrative support for Council activities, while recurrent funding covers project costs and payment for members.
This initiative is innovative due to the strong collaboration between the NBMLHD and mental health consumers and carers. The Council demonstrates that genuine and authentic co-design is a superior way forward for local health districts to better support their local communities.
A key achievement of the Council is its involvement in the development of the NBMLHD Mental Health Service’s new five-year strategic plan, with the service adopting all Council suggestions.
In other projects, the Council co-designed a new Transfer of Care procedure over a 12-month period that is now a model for other services. The Council is supporting implementation of a co-produced Advance Statement, a tool for communicating a person’s treatment preferences in the event of a mental health crisis.
It also offered valuable input into the design process and funding application to improve the therapeutic environment of the Nepean Hospital and Blue Mountains Mental Health Units.
The Charter signing underpins community confidence in ongoing genuine collaboration. The Council hopes to continue to strengthen and expand its networks and that the program’s ongoing success will lead to similar models being followed by others.
For more information, visit https://www.nbmlhd.health.nsw.gov.au/.