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Recovery College celebrated for innovation in healthcare

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust’s (SLaM) Recovery College is proud to have won the ‘Education for Innovation – working in different ways’ award, as part of the 2021 King’s Health Partners Education Authority Awards.   


The awards have recognised excellence and innovation in healthcare across London since 2010. The judging panel commended the Recovery College for its work supporting health and social care workers to develop skills to improve mental health and wellbeing in patients with long-term illnesses.  


The college provides workshops and courses on a variety of mental wellbeing topics across the London boroughs of Lewisham, Lambeth, Croydon and Southwark. It shares techniques for understanding and coping with any concerns, and for moving towards improved mental health. Teaching sessions are planned and co-led by experts in the field with peer educators who have personally experienced mental health challenges.  


The college responded swiftly during the pandemic, moving courses and workshops online by April 2020. This innovation has enabled student numbers to increase from 500 students each term to 1,372. Remote access has opened the service to more people – including more than 250 in the UK outside London, and also abroad. Access criteria was broadened from those who had already received mental health support to anyone who felt in need. Online support on 46 pandemic-related topics is now available alongside 26 courses. 


David Bradley, Chief Executive, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust said: “I am immensely proud to see the significant work of the Recovery College team recognised as an important innovation, especially during the pandemic. Merging the medical knowledge of professionals with the personal experience of those who have lived with mental health challenges creates a unique and all-encompassing approach to supporting and improving mental well-being. It was one of the earliest services in the UK to pioneer this approach since 2013. This award highlights its successful outcomes.” 


Recovery College Manager Kirsty Giles, said: “I am very privileged to lead a staff team of service users and clinicians who coproduce the curriculum.  It’s a wonderful way of bringing the lived experience and clinical worlds together to improve everyone’s experience and understanding of mental health, recovery and wellbeing. Professionals, service users and carers learn from each other in an environment where the individual is foremost, not their diagnosis or profession. This encourages valuable conversations, which might not be had in a treatment setting. 


Damien Larkin, who nominated the Recovery College, develops Beth, the app for accessing mental health care. Damien said: “I co-facilitate a fortnightly Beth webinar at the college, so I see at first-hand what an outstanding resource it is for service users and carers. The instant move to online services at the start of the pandemic demonstrated not only their innovation but also their dedication at a time when people's mental health was being tested the most. As the Recovery College is service user-led, it hits the right balance of getting the message across to the people who need to hear it, from the people who understand and empathise the most.” 

In future, the college will 
aim to build on its current achievements by: offering broader e-learning opportunities; working with GPs and others to signpost its online services more widely to reach more students; and working with adult learning services to develop progression pathways around accessing work and educational opportunities. 

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