People who have experienced mental health problems themselves are set to play a key role in helping an NHS trust enhance the care it provides for patients in crisis.

In a pioneering trial scheme due to start early next year, members of Doncaster’s People Focused Group (PFG) will meet inpatients on acute mental health wards at Tickhill Road Hospital to gather their thoughts on what aspects of their care they think is working well and what they think could be improved.

PFG ‘peers’, as they are called, will talk openly with patients during the weekly two-hour long sessions and provide honest feedback to clinicians about their findings.  After six weeks the pilot project will be comprehensively evaluated, with a view to providing such a scheme on a more permanent basis.

The idea came from the PFG and will focus on Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust’s 46-bed Adult Mental Health Unit, involving the three open wards and psychiatric intensive care unit.

Sue Halder, modern matron for the unit, said: “Most of our patients stay with us for around a month on average, to help stabilise their mental health and return home with appropriate support. We anticipate the PFG peers will develop an affinity with our patients because they share a similar lived experience of mental health issues themselves and will be able to give us impartial input.

“We are committed to being open and transparent and want to provide the best possible care we can for our patients, and this is another avenue we are keen to explore to help us achieve this goal.”

The PFG, based at the Wellness Centre, Montrose Road, Intake, bring a personal approach to helping others who need support.

Karen Senior, from the PFG, said: “Our role will be very informal, we won’t be like the Care Quality Commission, doing a formal inspection, it’s very much about working with patients and staff to see how we can help to improve the care experience.

“Patients often feel it’s easier to chat about the care they are receiving to someone who understands their situation, having been through something similar themselves.

“We have a pool of members who are going to make the visits, all have some form of lived experience of mental health issues, be it personally or as a carer of someone who has. We have no agenda, just a remit to encourage patients to speak freely about their care, so we can make recommendations based on what they tell us.”