Adapting a social network intervention for use in secondary mental health services using a collaborative approach with service users, carers/supporters and health professionals in the United Kingdom

Helen Brooks, Angela Devereux-Fitzgerald, Laura Richmond, Neil Caton, Alice Newton, James Downs, Karina Lovell, Penny Bee, Mary Gemma Cherry, Bridget Young, Ivaylo Vassilev, Clare Rotheram, Anne Rogers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Social integration, shared decision-making and personalised care are key elements of mental health and social care policy. Although these elements have been shown to improve service user and service-level outcomes, their translation into practice has been inconsistent and social isolation amongst service users persists.

AIM: To co-adapt, with service users, carers/supporters and health professionals, a web-based social network intervention, GENIE™, for use in secondary mental health services. The intervention is designed to support social activity and preference discussions between mental healthcare professionals and service users as a means of connecting individuals to local resources.

METHODS: In Phase 1 (LEARN), we completed two systematic reviews to synthesise the existing evidence relating to the i) effectiveness and ii) the implementation of social network interventions for people with mental health difficulties. We undertook semi-structured interviews with a convenience sample of 15 stakeholders previously involved in the implementation of the intervention in physical healthcare settings. Interviews were also conducted with 5 national key stakeholders in mental health (e.g., policy makers, commissioners, third sector leads) to explore wider implementation issues. In Phase 2 (ADAPT), we worked iteratively with eight service users, nine carers, six professionals/volunteers and our patient and public advisory group. We drew on a framework for experience-based co-design, consisting of a series of stakeholder consultation events, to discuss the use of the social network intervention, in mental health services. Participants also considered factors that could serve as enablers, barriers, and challenges to local implementation.

RESULTS: Across the stakeholder groups there was broad agreement that the social network intervention had potential to be useful within mental health services. In terms of appropriate and effective implementation, such an intervention was predicted to work best within the care planning process, on discharge from hospital and within early intervention services. There were indications that the social connection mapping and needs assessment components were of most value and feasible to implement which points to the potential utility of a simplified version compared to the one used in this study. The training provided to facilitators was considered to be more important than their profession and there were indications that service users should be offered the opportunity to invite a carer, friend, or family member to join them in the intervention.

CONCLUSION: The GENIE™ intervention has been co-adapted for use in mental health services and a plan for optimal implementation has been co-produced. The next phase of the programme of work is to design and implement a randomised controlled trial to evaluate clinical and cost effectiveness of a simplified version of the intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1140
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Early online date9 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


  • Caregivers/psychology
  • Health Personnel/psychology
  • Humans
  • Mental Health Services
  • Social Networking
  • United Kingdom


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