Seminar 4: Contemporary Developments in Mental Health Policy and Commissioning Seminar Notes

Reimagining professionalism in mental health: towards co-production

Seminar 4: Contemporary Developments in Mental Health Policy and Commissioning: a help and/or hindrance to power-sharing

Hosted by the International Centre for Mental Health Social Researchesrc-big-logo

University of York, Friday 28 October

Many thanks to all the people who participated at seminar 4. Very lively and productive debates!

Below we have provided some written notes on the presentations, discussions and your concluding thoughts from seminar four.

The powerpoint presentations will be available on the blog shortly, and the ‘talking head’ videos and short videos of excerpts of presentations will be made available on the blog in due course, as will Adam’s poem. Please be reassured that if you have been filmed as a presenter or ‘talking head’, you will be able to see the video and decide whether or not you wish it to be made available on the blog.

Seminar 5 Reconciling regulatory knowledge with co-production will be on 3 March 2017 at the same venue (Research Centre for the Social Sciences, University of York).

 ESRC Co-production

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Best regards,

Martin & Pamela

 Anne Rogers: Commissioning of self-management support

There are social and economic drivers of meeting mental health needs – education, employment, housing and criminal justice services have to respond to the well-established impact of not being in work due to mental health problems. How does commissioning and mental health policy respond to this? There is a recognition that improvements are required, but there are many priorities for investment. Some commissioners have taken a more integrated, social approach such as in Nottingham which includes advocacy, open door project and other socially-oriented services. However, the hidden impact of bureaucracy prioritisation of risk management remains the ‘elephant in the room’.

There is a tension between local aspirations and those identified by NHS England for empowering people. There is a need to focus more on early strategic planning of lay involvement to provide an avenue for genuine engagement of individuals and communities in a meaningful way. A capability approach is required which focuses on what an individual values and can achieve.

Commissioning needs to be re-oriented towards understanding and enhancing the power of social networks. There is good evidence that behaviours within networks as a collective phenomena reinforce ‘unhealthy’ behaviours, but can be used positively for behavioural change. Self-management of our health and mental health involves weak ties within our networks (connections to people within communities such as shop keepers, taxi drivers, postman/woman). The power of these weak ties is under-estimated. In addition, there is evidence that participation in community organisations is associated with better physical and mental health, particularly among people on low incomes who are more physically active.

There has been a rise in non-medical aspects in NHS commissioning in mental health. For example, pets are valued for companionship and social engagement, but they are not routinely included on mental health care plans. There is good evidence that they support people’s well-being, but there are few opportunities for personal commissioning of pets.

Mapping social networks provides a positive disruption to what people focus on in their daily lives. Externalising away from the self is very valued. When people see their network they can see how they can mobilise it, or identify gaps to enhance their connectivity. Genie is a method of visualising networks and connecting people with local resources. It requires some resources locally to keep it up to date and live, but is a useful tool for people to use to enhance connectivity within local areas.

Karen Newbigging: Co-production in commissioning: Are we there yet?

The commissioning cycle is a process which involves assessing needs and assets; planning, which involves engaging with all sectors of the local population; securing provision of services through contracting and monitoring the services through measurement of outcomes. In reality, it is often more messy than this. What is crucial, though, is involving local communities in the process to ensure local needs are met.

Involved in commissioning for mental health, there are 209 Clinical Commissioning Groups, 152 Local Authorities, individuals with health and social care personal budgets and NHS England who commissioned specialised services. Commissioning is diverse, but social movements, activism and collective advocacy are important in the commissioning process.

Co-production in commissioning is an equal partnership throughout the commissioning cycle. It is a form of deliberative democracy and should be values-driven. It requires a move to asset-based approaches and a shift to a social model, which values the importance of social context, individual values and preferences. Decision-making should be transparent and accountable.

In practice, this requires:

  • Getting the foundations in place with proper resourcing and support
  • Framing the questions differently
  • Defining outcomes to commission against (‘I statements’)
  • Using a range of methods to co-design and co-assess services
  • Working with voluntary and community groups to engage seldom-heard groups
  • Confronting the ‘D’ (decommissioning) question

Where are local commissioners on the co-production journey? Looking at Arnstein’s ladder of participation, the impressions in the room are that commissioners are generally not. However, Lambeth Collaborative; UK’s first Mental Health Parliament in Sandwell; Making a Difference (MAD) Alliance in North West London; and Newcastle social prescribing scheme were cited as good examples.

Commissioners view commissioning as a rational process and emphasise getting the right structure and processes. Providers see it as a ‘fine-tuning’ process to get their services right or as a way of exerting leverage on commissioners. Service users and the public see the process as being a wide spectrum of activities ranging from direct involvement in care to more strategic purposes.

What do commissioners need to do to support co-production? Some of Karen’s suggestions:

  • do it together – deliberate purpose and methods
  • attend to organisational culture and build capacity for co-production
  • invest in and support user groups / patient forums / voluntary sector to build capacity
  • tolerance of ambiguity and understand and use a plurality of methods and approaches to engage all sections of the population
  • deliberate the limits – are there any?
  • build co-production into contracts
  • share and learn from successes and challenges

Joseph Alderdice & Danielle Barnes: From the street to the strategy

Joe introduced the Leeds Mental Health Strategic Partnership which includes the NHS, local authority and voluntary sector. This includes 150 people with lived experience and many identities, such as networkers, activists, artists, poets, peer supporters and researchers. Lived experience is essential to co-produced commissioning. In reality, this means connecting as humans not just in the boardroom but beyond this. Meeting in community cafes or neutral spaces helps to see commissioners as fellow human beings.

Based on shared values, it is possible to define priorities and competencies, and design and deliver training. “Community development is about working with people to find solutions, support them and then get out of the way”.

What’s in it for people who engage in the commissioning process. Reciprocity is really important – people must get something out of it rather than just contributing to it. Peer support is an important component of this, but also is validation of their perspective. Co-producing system change is like turning around an old ship getting blown away in the wind. We need to harness individual energies, but support them through the process.

It is difficult to influence change across whole systems where some people are very distant from co-produced activities or do not draw upon lived experience.

How genuine is co-production? Are the ideas / plans already in the heads of commissioners? How does co-production influence this?

In conversation with Danielle Barnes, Joe discusses the (West Yorkshire Finding Independence) WY-FI project which involves people who have lived experience of mental health issues, substance use issues, offending or homelessness. This includes peer mentoring. Co-production is about finding the problems and developing the solutions together. WF-FI project is an example of meeting people where they are rather than expecting them to ‘come in’ and receive a service. Trust and reciprocity are key to this process.

Where do we go from here? What can we take away from today?
Take co-production beyond this forum It’s all in the language, we’re all people! The term service user perpetuates traditional (not co-productive) services
Need to move beyond principles and work out more detailed strategies for co-production. ‘The devil is in the detail’ A buzz and sense of excitement that should enable us to spread the word – maybe even into ‘hostile’ territory…
Develop master class on co-production for commissioners. Karen Newbigging may have resources available Think about the financial implications of participation in co-production, especially for people with mental distress
Build alliances across stakeholder groups  
Shift focus from ‘mental’ health to optimal health. Question mental/physical health divide  

Seminar 4: Co-Production in mental health policy & commissioning

Seminar 4 entitled Contemporary developments in mental health policy and commissioning: a help and/or hindrance to co-production and power-sharing will take place at the University of York on the 28 October 2016. 


We warmly invite you to participate in the 4th seminar which focuses on co-production in mental health policy and commissioning. The aim is to encourage debate across boundaries between service users/survivors and carers, academics, and professionals from voluntary and public organisations.

To make enquiries or to apply for a travel bursary (available to service users, carers, and professionals in voluntary organisations), please email

For more details on the seminar, please contact the principal investigator Pamela Fisher (


The programme

9.30 – Registration (with tea and coffee available)

10.00 – Opening with Martin Webber and Pamela Fisher

10.30 – Keynote by Anne Rogers, Professor of Health Systems and Implementation, University of Southampton ‘Commissioning of self-management support: an exploration of commissioner aspirations and processes in the context of moving towards co-produced and socially connected interventions’

11.15 – Discussion of arising themes (with tea and coffee available)

11.45 – Presentation by Karen Newbigging, Senior Lecturer in Health Policy and Management at the Health Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham. ‘Co-commissioning: Are we there yet?’

12.30 – LUNCH

1.30 – Joseph Alderdice and Danielle Barnes will present and lead around table discussion. Joseph (formerly of Involving People) is the Development and Engagement Lead for West Yorkshire Finding Independence (WY-FI). Danielle, originally part of a group of experts by experience, is one of WY-FI’s Engagement and Co-Production Workers. ‘From the street to the strategy: Co-producing system change in the real world’

3.00 – Tea and coffee and identification of the main points arising from presentations and discussions

3.30 – Adam Montgomery is a Dual Diagnosis Peer Support Development & Group Worker employed by Leeds Mind. However, it will be in his capacity as a spoken work artist and poet that Adam will close the seminar.

3.45 – Additional networking opportunity

Seminar 4: Who’s Speaking In York

Seminar 4: Contemporary developments in mental health policy and commissioning: a help and/or hindrance to co-production and power-sharing

University of York, 28 October 2016

From the street to the strategy: Co-producing system change in the real world

Joseph Alderdice is the new Development and Engagement Lead for West Yorkshire Finding Independence (WY-FI), part of the Lottery funded Fulfilling Lives programme. Joseph worked for over ten years at Leeds Involving People, a user-led organisation that connects citizens with opportunities to influence commissioning, strategy and service redesign programmes. He is now exploring how to bring the best of this to WY-FI, focusing on issues around entrenched homelessness, current/historical offending, problematic substance or alcohol use, and mental ill-health.

Danielle Barnes is one of WY-FI’s two Engagement and Co-Production Workers. Originally part of a group of experts by experience, she had a significant role in the co-design of WY-FI, its mobilisation and establishing its identity. Danielle has had a paid role in WY-FI since delivery began in 2014, co-ordinating a number of co-produced projects across the region.

Co-producing poetry

Adam Montgomery is a Dual Diagnosis Peer Support Development & Group Worker employed by Leeds Mind. Adam wishes to acknowledge the support he has received from Leeds Involving People (a partner organisation of the ESRC seminar series) in the creation of and journey to his role. As Adam puts it, “If it weren’t for the opportunities Leeds Involving People provided me to have my voice heard at all levels of service provision (through Together We Can and the Zip group), I wouldn’t have been able to contribute to positive system change. Being valued & being given opportunities to express ideas and experiences has enabled me to channel the frustration and confusion caused by services into a positive outlet. I was given a chance to help other people’s voices to be heard. Being a part of those networks brought me to this stage”. Adam’s positive trajectory is a direct result of co-production in action. In addition to his work at Mind, Adam (aka Ad Verse) is a spoken word artist and poet.

Co-commissioning: Are we there yet?

Dr Karen Newbigging, Senior Lecturer in Health Policy and Management at the Health Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham. Karen has over 30 years’ experience

in mental health. Originally, qualifying and working as a clinical psychologist, Karen has worked as a lead mental health commissioner, was the joint lead for gender equality and women’s mental health for the National Institute for Mental Health England and has held academic posts at the University of Birmingham and the University of Central Lancashire. She is also a Trustee for a service-user led charity, Healthy Minds, in Calderdale and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health.

Karen has particular expertise in equalities, advocacy, prevention, and system development, with over 40 publications, including two books, and reports for UK governments. Karen also specialises in democratic mental health, commissioning, and policy and research analysis in mental health and social care. She has led a range of research projects, working with people with lived experience as co-researchers. She has provided expert advice to NICE, the Department of Health and is currently working with the West Midlands Mental Health Commission.

Commissioning of self-management support: an exploration of commissioner aspirations and processes in the context of moving towards co-produced and socially connected interventions

Anne Rogers is currently Professor of Health Systems Implementation at the University of Southampton A health services researcher and medical sociologist, Anne has been a University academic researcher, non-executive Director for an acute NHS Trust and undertaken research in the voluntary sector. Anne’s research interests have included research in the social and sociological aspects of mental health and illness, users experiences of health care, population health need and demand for care, large scale national policy intervention evaluations and how patients adapt to and incorporate new technologies into their everyday life. Her current research interests are focused on patient systems of implementation for the management of long term conditions in the UK and in Europe and using mixed methods to evaluate policy interventions at the interface between health care services and self-management. Her research involves addressing how personal and social networks and relationships in domestic and community settings act as a conduit for accessing resources and support for managing long term conditions in a way which complements what is provided by formal service provision.