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Wednesday 29 March 2017
Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
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Mental health teaching centre nominated for award after injecting ‘patient power’ into students’ education

Psychiatry Teaching Unit staff shortlisted for coveted NHS award
Members of the Psychiatry Teaching Unit (from left to right): Dr Subodh Dave, Dr Mike Akroyd, Dr Andrew Horton, David Hackett, Simon Rose and Joseph Firth.

A mental health teaching centre for medical undergraduates has been shortlisted for an NHS health education award after encouraging its students to listen and learn from those who know best: the people who use mental health services.

The Psychiatry Teaching Unit (PTU) has been selected as a finalist at Health Education England’s 2017 Excellence in Education Awards, for its innovative approach to educating the psychiatrists of tomorrow – by arranging for them to be taught and assessed by people with personal experience of mental ill health.

The PTU – which is based in Derby and instructs fourth-year medical students from the University of Nottingham who are on psychiatry placements – is the only medical teaching unit of its kind to offer undergraduate students an opportunity to put their university-taught theory to the test before qualifying, by doing practice consultations with a group of ‘expert patients’ who then offer feedback about the students’ communication skills. 

As a result, the unit has been shortlisted for ‘best patient or public involvement in education’ for the East Midlands region at the Excellence in Education Awards. 

Simon Rose is a Lived Experience Development Worker within the PTU team. He says: “The expert patients involved within our teaching programme are vital to the workings of the team. Since I joined the PTU in April 2016, more than 40 patients have collaborated with the staff in writing study materials, delivering teaching and – most importantly – participating in ‘expert patient’ sessions with the students. Each expert patient allows a medical student to take their full psychiatric history, and carry out a mental state examination and risk assessment with them. A doctor or nurse provides feedback on the technical side of the interview. It is the expert patient, however, who feeds back to the medical student on how the process felt: on whether they felt listened to and valued as a person.

“As a result, these sessions not only enable people with experience of mental health problems to contribute meaningfully to the way future doctors conduct themselves, but also help to break down the power imbalance between doctor and patient. Our model of teaching – conceived, developed and led by Nurse Educator Alexa Sidwell – puts the expert patients at the very heart of the students’ learning. The students are assessed by the expert patients and they must take on board what the expert patients say about their communication skills.”

Mark Powell, Acting Chief Operating Officer at Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, says: “I’m delighted that the team at the Psychiatry Teaching Unit have been nominated for this award, as their approach exemplifies all that is best about modern mental healthcare. The work of the expert patients is helping to shift old ideas about the doctor-patient relationship from something that is passive and one-way to something that is dynamic and collaborative. Both the expert patients and the medical students benefit – in fact, the medical students consistently tell us that their sessions with the expert patients are some of the most insightful and useful during their placement.”   

The winner of the award will be announced at a ceremony in Loughborough on Friday 10 March.