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Thursday 24th May 2018

Voices that help improve care

20th April 2009

A woman with schizophrenia is helping ambulance crews offer better treatment to people with mental health issues.

Violence and Aggression

For someone who hears voices and has paranoid delusions it is not uncommon for Janey Antoniou to need help from the emergency services.

But often, she says, ambulance crews can make things worse because of misunderstandings.

To try to prevent these, Janey has been coaching ambulance staff on schizophrenia by using a tape of "competing voices."

"I see the world differently from other people,” she said.

After hearing of her illness Phil Alexander of the East of England Ambulance Trust asked her to explain to his staff the difficulties people with mental health problems can face.

Janey, who has been schizophrenic for 23 years, uses a walkman with seven voices on it, all talking at different volumes with one person wearing the headphones, another asking questions and a third observing to give an idea to his staff what it is like to hear voices.

With just under 10% of call-outs involving people with mental health problems, the discussion helps ambulance staff gain empathy with such patients.

It has already seen ambulance crews change their approach.

Ambulanceman Chris Perry said that following his time with Janey he would now feel more comfortable in asking if patients were hearing voices.

The idea of having Janey tutor ambulance crews has been a great success and has been highlighted by the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement as a good example of how a patient's experiences can be used to improve the health service.


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