A TRAILBLAZING initiative aimed at supporting mental health patients through the difficult transition back to independent living following their discharge from hospital is being piloted in Swindon.

Staff at Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership have partnered with charities and local organisations, including Swindon Mind, LIFT psychology and the Richmond Fellowship, to help service users through the recovery process and accompany them during their reintegration into society.

A dozen recently discharged service users have so far been invited to take part in the six-month pilot commissioned by Swindon Council, which launched earlier this year.

Pending the results and feedback from those involved, which will be collated in May, AWP is hoping to roll it out across Swindon on a permanent basis.

Newlands Anning, head of professions and practice for the Swindon locality and innovation development lead, is spearheading the project.

He said: “The representatives from MIND or Richmond Fellowship, for example, meet with a service user and facilitate groups and activities to make sure they maintain inclusion in their community after discharge.

“They give them a menu of groups and activities available. It could be that a service user struggles with anxiety and care coordinators can signpost them to agencies or short courses which could help them.

“The care coordinator will help them as long as they need it and it offers the users continuity.

“It started with three service users and since that time the number has quadrupled.

“There was a training programme for the organisations taking part, with mental health awareness and risk management, because there is always a lot of apprehension from people discharged from the secondary service.”

As it currently stands, service users are discharged back to the care of their GP. But too often the family doctors are unable to cope or assist with patients’ specific needs. It has left many feeling abandoned by the healthcare system and isolated.

“Only those who chose to would take part and whether they want to stay with the programme after a while is their decision,” added Mr Anning. “It’s about promoting independence and enabling people to go on to better things.”

Paula May, managing director of AWP Swindon, added: “This has been a particular problem in Swindon. People don’t need our secondary care support but they still need support after discharge. We want to make sure the support is there for them. They can be frail when they leave the secondary service and it is really to smooth that transition.”