June 18, 2024

South West News

South West News from Gloucestershire to Cornwall

Former Cygnet patient nominated for National Service User Award

A former patient at Cygnet Hospital Taunton has been announced as a finalist in the National Service User Awards 2023 for his work giving service users a voice.

Lee Millington-Millar joins five other nominees from Cygnet services at the National Service User Awards, which are designed to celebrate service user led initiatives in mental health, learning disability and autism services across the country.

Individuals involved in the shortlisted projects are invited to a black tie gala awards ceremony on 20 September, where the winners will be announced.

Lee is a finalist in the Lived Experience Leader category which is for individuals with lived experience of mental health needs, learning disabilities or autism, who have driven projects forward and shown the qualities of a leader. It for those who have inspired others and made a difference at service level to national level.

Lee was admitted to Cygnet Hospital Taunton in the summer of 2021 after years of suffering with severe depression and suicidal thoughts. He now works as an Expert by Experience for Cygnet Health Care and within a year has grown his reach to four hospitals spanning across the South West, including Cygnet Hospital Taunton and Cygnet Hospital Kewstoke.

He said: “I felt shocked and surprised when I heard I was a finalist.

“I go to the sites and try to input and engage with the service users and work with the staff to try to elevate the service user voice but also to try and help the staff members to understand how it feels from my own experience. I want to bridge the gap between service users and staff as the more knowledge that both have the easier it will be for everyone.

“The work we do together and all the help and support that I have had across the sites makes this easy to do.”

Cygnet has long championed and valued co-production across its services, using the voices, views and insight from service users to provide the very highest standards of care. In 2018, Cygnet became the first independent provider of healthcare services to invest in a full-time Expert by Experience Lead. It now works with more than 300 Experts by Experience to help ensure the opinions of service users are heard and considered across the organisation and that feedback is actioned upon to improve services.

Lee added: “it is empowering to know I could be responsible for improving care and getting voices heard. It gives me a sense of meaning and purpose too.

“I want to speak up for people who don’t have a voice. When you’re in a mental health service, sometimes you just don’t have the strength in yourself to speak up about what you need. I’ve been there and I know what helps and what hinders. I want to share that expertise to help get others into a good place.

“I have walked in their shoes and that helps to build up trust between us. They feel safe talking to me and it sends a strong message to the people still in treatment that it can be done. I got through it and it’s possible for other people to do the same. I’m finally in a place where I feel I can make a difference.

“As former service users who have experienced receiving care first hand, we are in the unique position of being able to drive real change and make a huge difference to so many people.

“Being nominated for such a prestigious award is the icing on the cake to what is an incredibly rewarding role. I feel a big responsibility to help people but I also know I am in a very privileged position and I’m ready to rise to the challenge.”

The awards are also celebrating their 11th year and winners will be announced on Wednesday 20 September at the Treetops Pavilion, West Midlands Safari Park.