A new approach to delivering health, wellbeing and community services in Merseyside has seen three new community hubs open in four years with over 80,000 visits.
Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust opened the first Life Rooms in a former public library in Walton in 2014 with funding from the Innovation Agency. The Life Rooms is a community space providing access to health services, employment and housing advice and support, and social, community and volunteering opportunities.
A second Life Rooms was opened in Southport in 2017, and a third was opened in Bootle in 2019.
Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust serves a population of over 11 million people across 85 sites in the North West of England. The trust delivers specialist inpatient and community services supporting mental health, learning disabilities, addiction, brain injuries and physical health.
In a 2014 consultation, Mersey Care service users identified a number of barriers to recovery. Service users reported struggling with obstacles to ‘moving on’, including poor housing, lack of access to employment and social isolation. Alongside this, service users and carers identified the lack of community space to access support and meet other people.
How The Life Rooms work
Visitors to The Life Rooms are able to access advice and services for a number of different practical and social issues, including employment, physical and mental wellbeing, and money and housing. Funding from the Innovation Agency allowed the creation of an employment and enterprise hub.
Visitors are helped by Pathways Advisors, a new role that was created within The Life Rooms. The Pathways Advisors greet visitors and signpost them according to their needs.
Since their creation The Life Rooms have established relationships with over 100 partner organisations across Merseyside, providing access to support and activities in the community. This social prescribing model, based on each hub’s local environment and local people’s needs, has become an essential component of The Life Rooms model.
By spring 2019 The Life Rooms had received over 4,000 registrations for Mersey Care’s Recovery College, which provides courses to help people understand and manage mental distress as well as physical health, and access to social and creative opportunities.
Sean Masterson: “The Walton Life Rooms isn’t far from where I live. I don’t need to mess around getting buses and trains, it’s a five minute walk. They were doing things that interested me and kept me occupied. I did creative writing, a stand-up comedy course, and I learned about depression and anxiety. Through the Recovery College I gained a sense of achievement. I started to feel better about myself.”
Benjamin Harris: “The Southport Life Rooms was a revelation. It provided an environment where I could just be myself with my issues, talk about them and learn from other people. It’s almost group therapy, and isn’t really offered anywhere else.”
Molly Maguire: “Before The Life Rooms I couldn’t even go to the shops. It’s got me out, it’s got me on buses which I never thought I’d be doing.
“I’m still receiving treatment but I’ve seen a change, and I think my psychiatric nurse has as well. It’s been amazing coming here, it’s changed me a lot. Without The Life Rooms I think I’d still be in the same place I was. It’s a calm atmosphere, everyone’s understanding – I call it my safe place.”
Read full interviews here.
For further examples of products, services and other innovations which enable patient activation and self-care, visit the Innovation Agency Exchange