I don’t know about you, but I love pudding and custard! When I was in hospital, we had it nearly every day and sticky toffee pudding and custard was my favourite! I was quite unwell at the time and didn’t have any leave. I had no intention of going to the gym. I put on a lot of weight! I had to buy new clothes, couldn’t look at myself in the mirror and it made me feel even worse. A downward spiral. Once we’d found the right treatment and I got some ground leave, I started to turn the corner. It was Spring and the weather improved, and I started to get out more. I was determined to lose the weight. I still wasn’t interested in the gym, but I started to do gentle exercises on the ward with the gym instructor – I quite liked Pilates. Who knew!

At around the same time, I started to get involved in the Patients’ Council and I loved the feeling of being able to influence how our service was run. I got the bug. I was invited to come to the Yorkshire & Humber Involvement Strategy Group and wow! People in services were making decisions, not only about how their services were run, but also about CQUINs – one of which was the Whole Dining Experience, which blew me away – staff eating with service users, it made complete sense!

Fast forward quite a few years – I had unescorted community leave and bought a bike. Our hospital was in the middle of beautiful countryside and I loved my cycle rides! And I was back to the same weight I was when I came into hospital.

After I was discharged, I kept up my involvement work, through the Recovery and Outcomes Groups, which I was helping to organise. I applied and was successful in getting a position on the national Adult Secure Clinical Reference Group at NHS England – who were supporting all secure services in the country to provide the best services possible. I loved it – service users and carers were having a big impact!

So, last year, I was asked to join a ‘Task & Finish’ Group to support the development of some Guidance and a ‘Physical Health Passport’ to support people in all secure services to manage their weight and at the same time, look after their physical health too. There were a really good range of people in the Task & Finish Group – including people from Public Health England, dieticians, exercise professionals, doctors, nurses, NHS England commissioners, together with some service user and carer experts-by-experience. The draft Guidance that was produced covered the whole pathway – from pre-admission then to admission, care and treatment, and right through to discharge. We looked at all the areas that people had previously told is were important to them – food and nutrition, physical activity, medication and treatment as well as support for the workforce in services.

Everyone contributed their expertise and we dedicated a round of Recovery and Outcomes Groups to discussing and feeding in everyone’s views into this work – asking for people’s feedback on the draft Guidance that had been produced. We had presentations about what was working well in services and what the challenges were too. We produced a report, which we’ll be able to share with you soon too – so watch this space!

We also held a Masterclass at one of your CQUIN meetings and I was bowled over by the enthusiasm and input that people gave – thank you to everyone who attended and contributed so incredibly helpfully!
We’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who contributed to this work – it would have been so helpful all those years ago when I was in hospital and putting on all that weight…

I also want to thank my colleague Gaby, who was also instrumental in helping with all of this – Gaby also did other work alongside this with the Health and Wellbeing Alliance. Over to you Gaby!

Hello! It was so great to meet so many of you at the CQUIN meeting and Masterclass in September. I only started the Recovery and Outcomes Groups Project Officer role in May, and still felt shy and nervous. You were very welcoming and made me feel very at home!
I really enjoyed planning and facilitating the most recent round of Recovery and Outcomes Groups where we discussed Managing a Healthy Weight. We really appreciated everyone’s ideas and contributions. It was important to us that the final report was as service user led as possible, with people with lived experience at the forefront.

I have also had the chance to work on a recent report commissioned by the national Health and Wellbeing Alliance on improving the support for people with severe mental illness to manage their weight in the community. Rethink Mental Illness were asked to bring the lived experience perspective to this work through focus groups with our service users. Their barriers to and motivations for managing their weight were the same as those discussed in Recovery and Outcomes Groups. People wanted more personalised support, a focus on living a healthy lifestyle rather than just BMI and to know more about the relationship between mental and physical health. You can read our report by clicking here.

We can all struggle with managing our weight, whoever we are. Weight management is complex and no one size of support fits all. Thank you to everyone who we met at the CQUIN meeting for sharing their experiences. You are all fabulous!

About Rethink Mental Illness:

Rethink Mental Illness believes that everyone severely affected by mental illness can be supported to live a meaningful life. We’re a leading charity, set up by a carer 50 years ago, and we provide mental health services throughout England. People with experience of mental illness are at the heart of everything we do. We provide around 200 services – everything from housing to community-based services and an award-winning advice and information service. We campaign to change the law and fight discrimination. We also run over 100 local groups which provide peer support in the community. We know, from our experience, that people severely affected by mental illness can have a good quality of life.

For further information, if you are able to, please visit our website at www.rethink.org

For anything at all related to Recovery and Outcomes, including our Champions network, please email recoveryandoutcomes@rethink.org or call 020 7840 3126

Our advice and information service can be reached on 0300 5000 327 between 10am and 2pm Monday to Friday.