We are delighted to share our independent evaluation of the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Mental Health Peer Support Worker Test of Change.

Peer support workers are people with personal experience of mental health issues who are trained to provide support to others. They build relationships, share their experience to inspire hope and offer support as equals.

Research on the effectiveness of peer support is limited, but the non-clinical approach is valued by many and can be delivered in various settings by employed or volunteer workers.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s Mental Health Strategy Recovery Work Stream implemented a programme to embed Peer Support Working within mental health services in 2020.

Matter of Focus was commissioned to evaluate the test of change, which saw 11 peer support workers employed to provide support to people using services in six community mental health teams.

Our findings add to a growing evidence base for peer and lived experience approaches.

About the evaluation

Our evaluation provides an independent assessment of progress against an outcome map that was collaboratively developed with peer support workers and programme managers.

The outcome map, which can also be characterised as a theory of change, comprises two change pathways:

  1. How peer support contributes to improving outcomes for people.
  2. The conditions for peer support working in teams.

We drew on existing and newly collected data, over six months.

We found evidence that:

  • People welcomed the sense of informality and equality in their interactions with Peer Workers.
  • Peer relationships provided the foundation for exploration.
  • Peer Workers helped with goal setting and self-management.
  • The pilot was well-planned and delivered.

The evaluation was led by Dr Simon Bradstreet in his role as principal evaluation consultant at Matter of Focus. Simon has an extensive background in developing and researching peer approaches. Commenting on the findings, he said:

“NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde should be commended for sharing their learning from this pilot so openly.

These findings add to a growing evidence base for peer and lived experience approaches. In this and other work, I have been struck by how well-suited the Matter of Focus approach is to exploring relational approaches like peer working.

Collaborative outcome mapping builds a shared understanding of what change looks like and using a theory of change approach really helps us get under the skin of what is happening when peer support works.”

Find out more about our approach to lived experience and peer support evaluation