Bristol M.E. Service has been involved in an innovative pilot project to support people with M.E./CFS with employment issues.
The pilot project, called Support, Empower, Employ M.E. (SEE M.E.), was delivered by the charity Action for M.E. in partnership with the Bristol M.E. Service here at North Bristol NHS Trust. The project, launched on 4 June 2015, ended in October 2016, and was open to people living with M.E./CFS within Bristol, Gloucestershire and North Somerset. SEE M.E. was funded by the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund, the Henry Smith Charity, Lloyds Bank Foundation, Rayne Foundation, Denman Charitable Trust and Dame Violet Wills Trust.
SEE M.E. provided support to people who were currently employed but struggling to sustain work or may be at risk of losing their job, as well as those considering work in the future or applying for jobs. SEE M.E. provided two specialist Employment Advisors working alongside the NHS clinical service to enable integration with healthcare provision, whilst building partnerships with a range of mainstream employment support, employers and Trade Unions.
The need for the project was raised by Action for M.E. members and our patients, who expressed a clear view that existing employment support operated at too great a distance from their healthcare provision to enable a well-coordinated approach.
The aim was to support more than 150 people living with M.E. to progress towards and achieve their employment goals, whilst gathering specific evidence of ‘what works’. Action for M.E. will publish a project report, including recommendations for policy, practice and future service commissioning.
The project produced clear guidance for employers, health professionals and people living with M.E./CFS:
Occupational Therapist, Fiona McKechnie, said “We were thrilled to find out that we had been shortlisted in the Best Quality Research or Innovation category of the Exceptional Healthcare Awards. The team here has worked very hard over the years to provide high quality support to people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (M.E.) and this was a great acknowledgment of that. The pilot employment project we have been working on with Action for M.E. (SEE M.E.) was the result of close collaboration with our clinic, service users, the charity and external funders. The results have been excellent with 73% of people taking part achieving their employment related goals. By doing this work within the clinic we have maximised the effectiveness of the treatment we can offer.”