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Singing staff hit the right note with vision for Allied Health Professionals in mental health care
16/05/2019

Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) sang their hearts out to demonstrate the mental health benefits of joining in a sing-along, when they met for a conference to launch their vision for the future.

More than 150 qualified and student AHPs, who work in services across the Trust, came together to share learning, innovative practice and to launch the Trust’s AHP Strategy 2019 to 2023 to put the expertise of AHPs to best use in its services.

Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) is the name given to occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, art, drama, music, dance therapists, play therapists, dietitians, social workers, complementary therapists and mental health practitioners or psychological practitioners, who have an AHP qualification. 

AHPs are a diverse group of practitioners who deliver high-quality care by carrying out assessment, diagnosis, treatment and discharge. They are the third largest group of practitioners in the NHS and most are educated in both physical and mental health issues, with clinical experience in multi-disciplinary and multi-agency settings.

Lindsey Lovatt, AHP Lead at NSFT, said: “AHPs may make up smaller percentage of our workforce than doctors or nurses, but their specialisms are crucial to a patient’s recovery and quality of life, no matter what their mental health condition.

“They each bring unique skills to multi-disciplinary teams and we are proud to champion them at our Trust.

“The purpose of the strategy is to outline the unique contribution AHPs make to deliver our Trust’s vision of ‘working together for better mental health’. Our aim is to improve health and wellbeing for individuals and communities, keep care closer to home, reduce reliance on GPs and acute care, and make sure carers, too, get the care they need.”

The strategy has been developed by local AHPs, colleagues in other professions in the Trust and service users.

An array of speakers, including NSFT Chair Marie Gabriel, Chief Executive Jonathan Warren and Chief Nurse Diane Hull, encouraged learning, discussion and reflection throughout the event at Dunston Hall, near Norwich, on Monday (13 May).

Two national AHP Leads - Joanne Fillingham, Clinical Director, Allied Health Professions, and Stuart Palma, Professional Head of AHPs, both from NHS England and NHS Improvement – also spoke.

They were delighted to endorse the NSFT AHP Strategy and committed to support the Trust in its AHP development.

They also highlighted the national agenda of ‘AHPs into Action’, focusing on improving AHP provision, and explained that diverse clinical leadership is crucial to support the NHS Long Term Plan. 

Maggie Wheeler, Ambassador and former Chair of NSFT, and Christina West, Musical Director from Sing Your Heart Out, explained how singing can support recovery and wellbeing, then encouraged attendees to join in a collective sing-along to show the social and cognitive benefits of singing for physical and mental health.

Maggie said: “Much of what AHPs do is to encourage people to express themselves, and singing is one of many ways that people who perhaps feel that they have ‘lost their voice’ in their lives, can really open up, feel a sense of freedom and let it all out.

“Singing in a group brings people together, whatever your ability. You don’t have to be able to sing like a pop star or an opera diva; you just need to find your own voice.”

Workshops included art psychotherapy, speech and language therapy in mental health services, the journey of AHP research, dietitians talking about the link between food and mood, sensory integration, OT formulation and a chance to get moving to boost both physical and mental wellbeing, all run by NSFT’s own AHPs.

Lindsey added: “We were very keen to integrate a creative element into the day as many of those attending offer artistic and innovative therapies in their roles.”

For press enquiries, email: nsft.communications@nsft.nhs.uk