1 February 2018

My journey in preparation to engage with a QI Project

Thana Narashiman, QI Communications Assistant, interviewed; Expert by Experience client Sonia on 17 July 2017, about her personal journey which she has gratefully shared.


This is my personal story….

I was going through a difficult time in my personal and professional life. I felt there was a breakdown in communications. I was worn and weary of self-employed work, not signing on for employment benefits and was looking for advice and support.

I informed my doctor that I was on a short fuse; shouting at people; had no money and no personal support. I needed some medication to help me feel calm and was referred to a mental health service.

In the meantime some other life events made me very angry. After phoning the police to seek a solution to an injustice, I later found myself sectioned to a hospital ward. This traumatised me.


How did you get involved with People Participation and Quality Improvement?

I knew about People Participation (PP) through my engagement with my Occupation Therapist (OT) which also provided me with an opportunity to learn about Quality Improvements.

I was also guided to engage with recovery group recommended and introduced to People Participation and Newham Working Together Group (WTG) for local service users and carers.

I really enjoyed engaging with the WTG which enabled me to get involved in a lot of different activities such as: Staff Induction Training; Meeting minute taking; Interview Panel Training; QI (Quality Improvement) training. You could say I enjoyed the QI training too much as I attended the same training course twice by accident!


What were the results and your personal feelings from service engagements?

It gave me focus! Two years prior to this I started a holistic care business which I had found challenging after moving to Newham from a different area.

It also helped with me make decisions on my self-employed small business. I decided to volunteer for therapy session at World Mental Health Day with fellow service users and carers. I managed to offer complimentary holistic therapy for about 9 people that day which was more clients in a month than I had seen with my own business.

My self-employment business was initially a good idea but now feel it will not work the way I initially thought. Following my experience and advice from groups, I now feel my business may not be viable in making money. In my view, alternative holistic therapy may only be viable in more affluent areas.

Therefore my involvement in my business may only be as a hobby rather than for a living. I feel this has now taken some pressure off me.


Please share your experiences with Quality Improvements (QI)?

The diagnosis, treatment and medication side effects meant that I was tired, sleepy and lethargic on most days. Due to health issues, I was not to complete a complimentary therapy course. My mind felt different and felt that I was not the same person who came in for initial treatment at the ward. The zest for doing the course went out of the window.

My introduction to QI is a very good thing and I also want to help with prevention of mental health issues by promoting exercise and eating well. It is all connected.

My engagement with the QI Service User and Carer Steering Group was via my Borough People Participation Lead, Leigh Bell. Leigh is positive and very consistent in informing about us about various activities.

Through my engagement with the QI Steering group, it gave me insightful knowledge to mental health treatment and Quality Improvement at ELFT. I was initially very nervous about joining the group but it now feels that my confidence has improved.

If I had not met my People Participation Lead I would have been more isolated and stayed indoors. I would need to find something else to do. With my children grown up, I was thinking what do I do with myself? I was not after an office job anymore.

What have I learnt about QI? It is something that’s already been done in the business world. It is the way forward to survive and adapt, help people engage, recover and provide a good quality service.

What are the barriers to working in a QI project?

I am involved at a Trust level project – the “Service User Carer QI Steering Group” but have not yet joined a formal QI project team.

Early on I just needed more time before getting involved, looking after my health and emotional wellbeing. There is more healing process to come and I feel a part time job will help me to be more regularly involved and boost my confidence.

I like to use the muscle analogy: If you don’t use it you lose it. I don’t want to lose my expert skills, but I am now more aware of my limits.

I am feeling more ready to get involved with a QI project, perhaps I can help for 1-2 days a week. I would be fine with that.

I feel this is positive work and we should not have to feel like its “Them and Us”, these barriers are slowly eradicating. It’s “Us and We”, staff, service users and carers are all looking after the mental health and emotional wellbeing of each other. I found the interactions are wonderful and very positive. It is about being human and thinking outside of the box.


What next?

People Participation has been an eye opener, I’ve learnt so much about mental health. The national media paints a negative picture but the curtain is opening. I was on the outside looking in but now I am on the inside. I want to get involved and give something back positively to other users of the service.

I feel it is important to be involved with other people. It’s good to highlight mental health issues like stress, deprivation, and reducing the general stigma. I think we need to honestly admit that we can get over these issues but not always.

The engagement through People Participation activities gave me purpose and allowed me to focus on what I really wanted to achieve. I sometimes feel like I am swimming in the deep end but feel that I have more to give.

Finally I wish to add this statement : “There is no Service without a Provider and no Improvement without Customer feedback!”

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