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RCOMH Steering Group Member - Anthony Jones

My Role

I’m Tony Jones, Research Assistant and Coordinator of Service User & Carer Involvement in Research. I am 43 and have been with the Research & Development Department of Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys Foundation NHS Trust for 6 years. I have participated in and been supported by the North East MHRN Hub and Research Centre for Occupation & Mental Health (RCOMH) across all aspects of my role for some time.


History of Involvement

Where to begin? Well, in my childhood between the ages of 6 months to 6 years I was not always a physically well child and when I started school I struggled with my learning for most of my school life.  Back in the 1970s they didn’t test children for dyslexia so I was put into a special school and my parents were told “Tony will not go far”. This was something that I then naturally believed at that time. My special school was one of the first schools in the country to put its top pupils through C.S.E. exams in which I did well. Having attended a ‘special school’ however still put me at a disadvantage when it came to embarking on a working life. If only they knew then what I know now things could have been a lot different. On the other hand, maybe I wouldn’t have found my current niche and enjoyed the rewarding and stimulating career I’ve discovered as a result of this early stigmatisation. In spite of the early lack of recognition by my teachers of my potential, I will this year graduate from University with an honours degree in Community Development Work. It makes me smile to imagine what their reaction would now be!    

I came into Mental Health 13 years ago as a Service User suffering with depression and through my recovery I began doing volunteer work as a Service User Representative and Advocate for the Stockton locality Mental Health Services within which I work for the Service Users of Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys. On a number of different issues and projects such as the HAZ Project (Health Action Zone) also the NSF (National Service Framework 7 Standards), the work I did was local, national and international at Network Meetings and Conferences over an 8 year period.

I also attended the first cohort back in 2003 of the Service User & Carer Representatives & Advocates Leadership programme with in Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust in partnership with Teesside University. This helped my confidence and provided a platform from which my leadership skills could develop and grow. 

I’ve also helped set up New Directions, a drop-in centre and listening support service for people with Mental Health issues, and was on its Trust Board as Chair for three years, before changing my role to a paid Listening Support Worker for New Directions. In spite of New Directions sadly having had to close its doors in January 2009 after 6 fruitful years due to financial constraints brought about by the recession, we know that in its time many people were provided invaluable help and support on their recovery journey.

Another of my Regional networks is NHS SHA North East LGBT Staff Network which I’ve been a part of for the last 2 years.


Research Involvement Role

There are 4 key Strands to my role

1. Leadership and Advice - I lead on Service User & Carer Research Involvement polices and procedures. Also, I have advised many Researchers and Research Studies Projects, Organisations around Research Involvement.

2. Communication and Promotion - I have a track record of effective communication with Service Users & Carers and their groups and to staff and other professionals around research involvement. I’ve also promoted at training days, Conferences, and other places the benefits and values of real involvement by Service Users & Carers to all above parties.

3. Recruitment - I’ve played an active role in recruiting Service Users and Carers to be participants in a Research Study including recruitment of Service Users and Carers to play an active role within the whole research field across the entire research process from ethics approvals to post completion review.

4. Support - I support Service Users & Carers who have been recruited as participants or who are active Researchers in any Research study and also provide tailored support to any Research professional regarding patient and public involvement.


Highlights of MHRN Research Studies

One of the MHRN Research studies that I’ve worked on in partnership with a Clinical Studies Officer (CSO) Mike Johnson was Viewpoint, a National study of Service Users’ own experiences around Stigma and Discrimination within services. I brought all 4 Strands of my role to this study in partnership with the CSO. My contribution has been acknowledged as key to the success of this study in making possible recruitment of 222 participants. This outstanding recruitment performance has led to the securing of substantial network funding to support other studies.


Highlights of RCOMH Research Studies

I first got involved with RCOMH through a research study been under taken by a Consultant Occupational Therapist Simon Hughes who is a staff member of Tees, Esk & Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust.  This study is called (EAGER Project) – Evaluation of the impact of the implementation of government policy on occupational therapy: using assertive outreach as an exemplar. I’ve also been working on the Steering Partnership Management Group meetings for RCOMH as a member of developing partners. 


Outside interests

As a single gay man I play an active role within my gay community and support good healthy positive gay life. I am also doing a part time Degree on Community Development Work at Teesside University. I am also a Christian and go to church.  I am not really interested in sport but I do like playing Tennis or Pool.  I also support and go to the local theatre and cinema to watch plays or a show and films.  I also like walking, cooking, and reading a good book as well as love eating out or watching the world go by in a café.  I can also be a real couch potato and just sometimes sit and watch TV.


Summing up

My journey has not been an easy one for me at times but I would not change any of it. I do believe that Service User Involvement in Research is most important not only for the Research studies, but also for the Researchers and organisations to learn from the experiences of the Service Users. Importantly, Service Users are presented the opportunity to learn new skills for themselves which make them feel valued and helps them in their own recovery which is why I’m so passionate and driven in my role.