Gemma’s been working at the network as an Assistant Psychologist since 2020 and will be changing job roles soon. She’s been really involved in the service user involvement side of things, particularly with the PIA group, and has written about her experiences with that, and the value of holistic service user involvement.
Hello everyone, my name is Gemma and I am currently the assistant psychologist for the PDCN (I’m the one who has been sending out the PIA online invites and taking the minutes for the meetings). I will be moving on from the team soon to further my career in clinical psychology so I thought I would write down some of my reflections on my time within the PIA team. Firstly I would like to say how much I have valued my time with PIA and that it has given me a lot of “food for thought” when thinking about my identity and values as a healthcare professional.
When I joined the PDCN in the midst of the pandemic I had heard of service user involvement, and on occasion come across it in my previous jobs. Looking back on that time, although I was able to define what service user involvement meant, I had not witnessed embedded service user involvement which ensured that service users were involved with a service at all levels. Instead I had seen a conscious effort to be more inclusive however often resulting in an unintended tokenistic approach. Thanks to the PIA meetings I have attended I have been shown how beneficial and important it is to include current and ex-service users in ALL aspects of a service, whether that is recruitment, meeting representation, service development, staff training or co-producing resources. Service user involvement is something I intend to keep in the forefront of my mind my future roles, wherever they may be.
As important as embedding service user involvement is, it also comes with its own challenges. During my time attending PIA I have noticed that the numbers of attendees at our meetings have dwindled. The survey we sent out found that 71% of respondents felt that PIA was excellent. However, it was noticeable that the move to virtual meetings and other conflicting commitments had detrimentally impacted the once-frequented meetings. My own experience of life within the pandemic and working from home has been an emotional rollercoaster and I’ve had to battle with my anxieties around the new “norm” and the restrictions easing. Returning to the office, having face-to-face meetings and seeing actual people has been fantastic, despite my initial worries. I hope that in the not-too-distant future PIA will be able to meet in person and connect socially again. I know that Raj, Richard and Lulu are in the process of exploring whether this is possible with the aim of increasing accessibility and improving PIA attendance so that as many people are possible can contribute to the upcoming projects planned!
Being a part of PIA has been invaluable experience and it has been a pleasure to have been a part of it. It has helped me to think about service user involvement can fit into healthcare settings more routinely and encouraged me to challenge my previous perceptions. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those I have met at the meetings for being so welcoming, it’s clear that your passionate for seeing change shines though which I have seen through how your input has shaped the Young Person service.
I wish you all the best for the future,
(PDCN Assistant Psychologist, August 2020–September 2021)