What is the volume, diversity and nature of recent, robust evidence for the use of peer support in health and social care?

Status: Complete

Briefing paper: We have produced a 4-page Briefing Paper which summarises the project and the main findings.

This page provides some information about the background of this project and how the team carried out the research.

Background
The financial pressure on the NHS is increasing, with the impact of slower growth in NHS funding exacerbated by increased demand from an aging population. Increased prevalence of long-term conditions such as diabetes and heart disease has led to renewed focus on supporting members of the public to manage their various lifestyle risk factors such as smoking and obesity (for example in the NHS Long Term Plan). A part of the policy response to these pressures is an increased focus on enabling patients and carers to support themselves more effectively. The NHS Long Term Plan outlines an intention to empower patients through increasing their involvement in their own care, focusing on patients’ own health and wellbeing goals, improved access to information and peer support within the community.
 
There is considerable variability in peer support delivery, content and underlying mechanisms which present a challenge to commissioners and services who may wish to identify evidence of effective peer support interventions relevant to the needs of the community they wish to support and which is consistent with the structure of existing services in the area.

Aims of our project
Our aims were to:

  • Map the recent, robust evidence for effectiveness of peer support interventions across health and social care, and
  • Map the recent, robust evidence for cost-effectiveness of peer support interventions across health and social care
  • To bring together and organise the existing evidence to help users to identify and locate the research evidence or evidence gaps relevant to their area of interest

We used the following definition for peer support:
Peer support involves people drawing on shared personal experience to provide knowledge, social interaction, emotional assistance or practical help to each other, often in a way that is mutually beneficial. With the additional condition that there is an identifiable peer support worker role which is ongoing and formalised in at least one of the following ways: they have received training to fulfil the peer support role; they receive ongoing support to fulfil the peer support role; they are paid or have a contract to fulfil the peer support role.

Research question
What is the volume, diversity and nature of recent, robust evidence for the use of peer support interventions in health and social care?

What we did
We produced an evidence and gap map. As with systematic reviews, this involved a transparent and unbiased process which found and organised the existing evidence. Evidence and gap maps help users to identify and locate the research evidence or evidence gaps relevant to their area of interest.  

For more detailed information about how we made the map, please see our project protocol and full project report.

Evidence and Gap Map
The finished evidence and gap map is available online and includes links to a glossary, and instructions for using the map.

Please email Anna Price a.price@exeter.ac.uk, Sian de Bell s.c.de-bell@exeter.ac.uk or Jo Thompson Coon j.thompson-coon@exeter.ac.uk.