Recovery College East – Cambridgeshire & Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust – HC – #MHAwards19

Recovery College East is a peer-led NHS educational service that values lived experience of mental health challenges equally with professional expertise. All of the current staffing team at the college have their own lived experience of both mental health and/or physical health challenges and our wonderful team continues to prove every day that anything is possible. Students respond very positively when they become aware that all of the staff have at some point or another accessed secondary mental health services and long term physical health services

Highly Commended #MHAwards19


  • From start: Yes
  • During process: Yes
  • In evaluation: Yes


  • Peer: Yes
  • Academic: No
  • PP Collaborative: Yes

Find out more

Please briefly describe your project, group, team or service, outlining what you do and why it makes a difference.

Recovery College East is a peer-led NHS educational service that values lived experience of mental health challenges equally with professional expertise. All of the current staffing team at the college have their own lived experience of both mental health and/or physical health challenges and our wonderful team continues to prove every day that anything is possible. Students respond very positively when they become aware that all of the staff have at some point or another accessed secondary mental health services and long term physical health services. This provides a sense of possibility for students as they can see that there is life beyond diagnosis. We offer a comprehensive, co-produced, educational curriculum supporting students with mental health and physical health challenges to work out their own recovery pathway. We recognise that our mental health/physical health diagnoses do not define us. The college operates from an educational recovery environment perspective from which choice, peer support, co-production and personal agency is supported and encouraged. Students can pro-actively identify how to ‘live with, live well’ with their mental/physical health challenges and to plan well for a life beyond diagnosis.

We continue to work with the support of all staff across the organisation, and many have taught/co-produced courses through the college bringing fantastic professional expertise in all areas. We work closely with the staff wellbeing service to continue to identify how we can support staff as well as those who receive our services. We are very excited about a new suite of courses which we launched last term in relation to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion working with the Trusts fantastic ED&I champions to deliver ED&I courses through the college hubs. One of our next projects is to support the wonderful work of the Trust’s Green Care initiative by co-producing and delivering (with experts from across the Trust including our health and wellbeing champions) some courses around Green Care.

The Recovery College is responsible for all of the training for Peer Workers across the organisation. We have co-produced our own Level 4 accredited PEP education programme and have successfully trained 13 cohorts of students across 9 years, many of whom have gone onto work in the organisation. The college is also the first college in the country to develop a preceptorship programme for peer workers new in post in their first year. We facilitate 4 peer professional forums annually and all Peer Support workers are invited to attend to continue their professional development in this exciting field of work. In December we recruited the Trust’s first Senior Peer Support Worker to the college team to support from an educational/mentoring perspective our peer worker work force and to support our college students, through a peer supported model, around their next steps, goals and ambitions.


What makes your service stand out from others? Please provide an example of this.

Recovery College East worked with Ninja Theory (game developers) over 3 years to develop a computer/XBox/Playstation game entitled Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice. In the game the main character Senua experiences challenges with past traumatic events and hearing and seeing things that others don’t (psychosis). Through this co-produced piece of work staff and students at the college were able to share the reality of their lived experience to help inform and educate the game developers and those who now play the game. The response to this game has been amazing since its launch. The game’s approach to breaking down stigma and challenging perceptions of mental health has received world-wide critical acclaim winning 5 BAFTA’s including one for ‘Games Beyond Entertainment’ this category is all about unique approaches to games that then challenge and break down stigma in innovative and ground-breaking ways.

Recovery College East is the first college to be a BAFTA award winner:—hellblade-senua%E2%80%99s-sacrifice. The impact of the game in relation to breaking down stigma and discrimination has been amazing and the game has taken this to a whole new audience of gamers across the world. For those involved in this project it has been life-changing and proves that we all need to take positive risks to break down stigma and discrimination around mental health. To see just how much this game means to people please take a look at the accolades clip: The development team was also recently awarded the Royal College of Psychiatrists Communicator of the Year award, which was such a huge honour for everyone involved Through this exciting collaboration Ninja Theory have become real supporters of the work of the Recovery College and they are committed to supporting us.

We have just finalised an annual Senua’s Scholarship (funded by Ninja Theory) to support one student per year to train with the Recovery College as a tutor. This scholarship package will provide the recipient with training, support and mentoring to begin a new career in teaching in the adult education sector. This scholarship is administered through the Trust’s Head to Toe Charity and the college will work with the recipient across the course of 12 months to support them in their new career pathway. The recipients together with the college will also provide an annual wellbeing workshop for staff at Ninja Theory as a way of ‘giving back’ to our sponsor.


How do you ensure an effective, safe, compassionate and sustainable workforce?

Recovery College East has a strong ethos around training and continued professional development. All of the team, including volunteers, have undertaken continued development opportunities with a focus on areas of interest or expertise for the individual. We have devised a staying well at work plan for the whole team to ensure that we can all collectively support each other. We have regular reflective sessions in both college hubs and meet as a whole team twice a term for reflective sessions and for team meetings etc. Supervision is monthly and volunteers are mentored and supported by the whole team on a regular, structured basis. The team is very proactive in identifying team development opportunities to ensure that we have a breadth and depth of knowledge in many areas to support our student base. All of our team including volunteers have a lived experience of mental health challenges, as well as some team members who have long term physical health challenges and carer responsibilities. In relation to recruitment and retention we always attract a large number of applicants for advertised roles and we also have an excellent retention rate. One of our biggest supports is the use of peer support across every aspect of our work. All of the current staffing team were initially trained as peer support workers and this has really helped to established a powerful recovery environment for both the team to work in and students to learn in.


Who is in your team?

Recovery College Manager (Band 7 WTE) 4 Peer Tutors (Band 4 (3.6 WTE) Training and Development co-ordinator (Band 5 WTE) Senior Peer Support Worker (Band 4 0.8WTE) We are in the process of recruiting a Recovery College Administrator (Band 0.5 WTE) We also work with many volunteers at the college, many of whom have used the college as a springboard to returning to work, which is fantastic. We really could not run the college without the support of our wonderful volunteers. We also have support from staff across the organisation who will work with us on specific projects/courses delivered through the college. We have recently started to run our new Level 4 accredited train the trainer course for staff, who have expressed a keen interest to work with us. This professional development opportunity for staff, has long lasting benefits for both themselves and our students through the courses they deliver with us. We currently have 3 cohorts of Train the Trainer scheduled over the next few months and professional groups include, OTs, Peer Workers, Nurses, Chaplaincy etc. Further to this we work closely with a number of third sector partners on co-delivery projects and new initiatives.



How do you work with the wider system?

Recovery College East follows a solid co-production model engaging and working with all stakeholders across all stages of the college’s development. We work closely with colleagues across our Trust for support with course development, marketing and comms and charitable opportunities etc. The college has recently started a plan of work to support the college to work and develop across all three of the Trust directorates, reflecting the Trust’s integrated health care services. We have worked on projects with the local authorities and partner with numerous voluntary sector organisations on both course developments and to support those organisations to deliver on some of their funding outcomes which also increases opportunities for our students to feel more socially connected to their local communities. We are well connected to all our partners and over the course of the college being open we have developed strong and trusting relationships with our partners and this has been of huge benefit to college students as we are able to feel confident around signposting students to community services that will support them further in their recovery journey.


Do you use co-production approaches?

Co-production is the foundation of the college’s ethos and we operate this model through all aspects of our curriculum and college developments. We ensure that people are involved from the start and all the way through the process. We work with all our partners and the Trust to ensure that we have stakeholder representation and will not accept that this is not possible, even if it takes a little longer to ensure that everyone feels fully connected and has a voice. Co-production is essential to the work of the college and we believe that it is instrumental in our success. Co-production drives everything that we do.


Do you share your work with others? If so, please tell us how.

We share our work through education network, events and comms in our NHS Trust. We have recently had two areas of research published in relation to our Recovery narrative work with students through the college’s Telling My Story course and further research which focused on looking at our range of courses and their impact for students through two different measures the Internalised Stigma Scale and the Quality of the Process of Recovery (QPR). The research showed that the college courses both reduce internalised stigma and increase the quality of the process of recovery. We are currently in the process of working with Professor Paul Fletcher who works at Cambridge University and the Trust. He is working with the college team to help us identify further areas of improvement in research and evaluations and the opportunity for college staff to engage in their own research projects as well as other exciting initiatives including further collaborations with Cambridge University.

We have our own webpages and one of our amazing volunteers (who used to be a magazine editor) has, together with the college team, set up and launched a magazine called Speak your Mind, which we also promote our work in, the work of the college students and contributions from many of our partner organisations. Every term the college runs magazine sessions for students to develop their skills in writing, interview techniques, photography and art. In issue two the editor said in her editorial: ‘ For me, it’s been a journey of rediscovery; the realisation that I still have the skills I thought I’d lost many years ago when I stopped working. I hope you’ll agree when I say I can still put a magazine together!’ Please see the latest issue of Speak Your Mind :



What outcome measures are collected, how do you use them and how do they demonstrate improvement?

We have used a number of different outcome measures including and not restricted to: end/beginning of course evaluations; My learning plans – developed by the students. Each learning plan builds on the next with the 3rd learning plan focusing on exiting the college and setting goals in the community etc. Other measures have included Quality of the Process of Recovery, Internalised Stigma Scale, SWEMWEBS etc. We have recently finalised together with Anglia Ruskin University consultants an Social Return on Investment in relation to the Peer Education Programme developed and run by the Recovery College as a professional qualification for Peer Workers.


Has your service been evaluated (by peer or academic review)?

We are continuing to build on developing more research opportunities through the college, with the support of Prof Fletcher, from Cambridge University. We run Introduction to Research courses for our students and we also run ‘how to become a peer researcher’ courses for students too. These are co-delivered with our research colleagues and a Peer Tutor who has also been a Patient Research Ambassador for the Trust. Our tutors also deliver sessions to researchers working in healthcare around Recovery Language in Research to support researchers to understand how recovery language can break down stigma and discrimination if used through their research, where applicable. Previous research projects which focus on the work of the college include: Recovery Narrative research with a focus on our Telling My Story course. Further research into the impact of our college courses which showed a reduction in internalised stigma (using the Internalised Stigma Scale) and an increase in the Quality of the Process of Recovery, that people experienced following on from attending our courses. The college has just finished working with an external researcher on a project entitled ‘Beyond Participation’, where the researcher worked with students through the medium of photography and its relationship to recovery stories etc. College Tutors supported this training and now deliver the course independently across our college hubs.


How will you ensure that your service continues to deliver good mental health care?

The college has strong foundations and we are always looking for new and exciting opportunities to further develop our work and to increase our sustainability and reach. Co-production ensures that we are held to account by all our stakeholders to ensure that we continue to deliver a service that creates opportunities, possibilities and hope for all its students. We have worked alongside commissioners and others around new service designs, specifically with a focus on our expertise around co-production and peer support. This has meant that peer support workers and their vital role in any service delivery is becoming much more standard practice when new services are created or current services re-commissioned.


What aspects of your service would you share with people who want to learn from you?

The college is often called upon to support new Recovery Colleges, through mentorship, support and advice and to share our experiences, both the challenges and the positives, to support others embarking on setting up both peer support worker training/development programmes and Recovery Colleges. We believe that sharing good practice freely means that many more people will benefit. Essentially we truly see the benefit of education in relation to navigating health challenges in the spirit of living with, living well. Co-production, peer support, recovery environment are all aspects of our service that can easily be translated to any other health and/or community service. The benefits of combining professional expertise and lived experience into educational courses are endless and can give people a different understanding/perspective around navigating their unique experiences.


Is there anything else you want to share about what makes you an example of positive practice?

Only that we always hold the hope for everyone, even we they can not see it for themselves.



Commissioner and providers

Commissioned by: Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust

Provided by :

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust


Population details

Brief description of population (e.g. urban, age, socioeconomic status):Students come from a range of diverse backgrounds and a wide range of socioeconomic statuses. All students will have had some experience of mental and/or physical health challenges either as someone receiving health services, a carer or staff member etc. Students age from 18 years (there is no upper age limit).

Size of population and localities covered:  Our service is open to anyone in the catchment areas of services provided by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust

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