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Peer Support: What Is It and Does It Work?

Peer support has great potential to boost person centred care and is greatly valued by people who take part in it says Nesta and National Voices as they launch the review Peer Support: What Is It and Does It Work?

There is evidence that peer support can help people feel more knowledgeable, confident and happy, and less isolated and alone. The review also showed that there is a limited understanding of the different forms of peer support, how best to deliver support and the forms of training and infrastructure to get the most impact from it; so, further evidence is needed to fully understand the impact it has on the health service and individuals with long-term health conditions.

The peer support literature review analysed over 1000 research studies on peer support from around the world to find out who is involved in it, the type of support provided and why. The findings showed that peer support can take many forms, such as informal telephone calls, group get-togethers, online forums or structured training.

Existing evidence examined by the review showed that peer support is worth investing in as a way of tackling long-term health conditions but knowledge on the service could be strengthened by commissioning more robust and detailed evaluations of the impacts and reasons why peer support works better in some contexts and for some groups. This could be done through systematic reviews and randomised controlled trials or by evidence that detailed how support was offered or what the most useful components were.

The publication of the research coincides with the recent launch of Realising the Value, a new initiative to find, test, share and roll out the best ways that people with health conditions work with their communities and health professionals. Realising the Value is delivered by a large consortium with a strong track record and expertise in the area of putting people at the centre of their own care. Consortium partners include Nesta, the Health Foundation and National Voices.

Peer Support: What Is It and Does It Work? can be downloaded and read at: