More than 296 young people struggling with their emotional wellbeing have been helped by a new service designed by their peers.

The LINK service offers a ‘non-medical’ solution that provides a holistic approach to managing some of the issues young people face today – many of which have been heightened by the challenges faced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Worries and anxiety about isolation, identity, school, exams, and parents and carers working on the frontline have all increased over the last 18 months.

The service is a collaboration between Barnardo’s and several local Primary Care Networks (PCNs), which are groups of GP Practices working together. 

One of the young people who has used LINK said: "If I’d not met [my worker], I don’t think I’d have the confidence to leave the house and I’d be anxious all the time. I’m less worried now, it’s like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders…She has really guided me to a better place. She’s listened to me and got me back on the right path. Now I live more in the present rather than worrying all the time about the future and the past. Now the future looks a lot brighter.” 

LINK provides individuals with that much-needed support, but what is particularly special about this service is that children and young people have been actively involved in co-producing it from the very outset. They have formed interview panels, describing to health and care professionals what they would need from the service, what it should look like, and what they would want from the practitioners involved. 

This has resulted in a truly personalised offer, which includes the provision of one-to-one and group support, the use of assessment tools, school drop-ins, and connecting children and young people to appropriate resources in the wider community which are best suited to their needs, interests and circumstances. It ultimately empowers individuals to look after their own wellbeing, and recognise when they might need further help. 

Since its launch the service has received 296 referrals. 76% of these have been made by GPs, with the remainder coming from schools, colleges, police and other organisations who value this new service. 

Now, more than a year in, the co-production work continues, with a number of children and young people who have accessed the service getting involved in further influencing and shaping its future.

Dr Richard Massey, Clinical Director of the Keswick and Solway PCN, said: “We knew there was a gap and that young people who needed some emotional help weren’t getting the support required, or were on waiting lists for medical services that might not have actually met their needs. For me, it was important that the people using the service had a hand in shaping how it would work. It is clear to us that if you ask young people, they know exactly what they need and have helped us to design a service which feedback tells us is really effective."

A parent said: "This is such a fantastic service to have; just having someone for kids to talk to when they feel they can't tell a parent or teacher makes such a difference to a child's mental health. Massive thank you Barnardo’s & NHS!!"

The LINK service is available to those aged between 5 and 19, and who are registered to a GP practice and/or attend school within the Penrith and Eden, Keswick and Solway, Brampton and Longtown areas.

For further details about the LINK service or to make a request for support, please email or call 07874 795 426.

To find out more about co-production, please visit our Co-Production Toolkit at:

What is co-production?

Co-production is a way of working that involves people who use health and care services, carers and communities in equal partnership.

It engages groups of people at the earliest stages of service design, development and evaluation. Co-production helps to ground discussions in reality, and to maintain a person-centred perspective.

Why should we co-produce?

Local people often have ideas and solutions that would work better for their communities. Taking part can increase people’s confidence and self-worth. It also enables and empowers people to have ‘ownership’ of their local services and gives them a sense of purpose. 

As an organisation, it builds greater understanding of local health services and connects you to the community. 

The graph below shows the benefits of co-production when looking to improve and transform a service:

  • The red line, Stabilisation, is what happens when there is no focus on change of any kind
  • Transformation only, the gains tend to fade. Changes are implemented and make a difference but over time enthusiasm wanes, someone moves to another job and the change is not fully sustained, some gain is maintained but not all and then another bright idea comes along and the change trend is repeated
  • Improvement only, when small PDSA style change takes place routinely across the system consistently by staff. Progress is steady and always upwards towards improved quality but relatively slow for the pace of our system
  • Improvement and transformation, when the two previous methods are combined then change can happen more quickly and continuously in an upward trajectory
  • When we include co-production and involve those who use our services then improvement happens even quicker and quality is greater

So, where do I start?

Below are some suggestions of where to start co-producing:

  • Talk to your patients – this can be informally, even in the waiting room!
  • Contact colleagues who are involved in working with people and communities, and start to map community groups, people with expertise, community leaders e.g. local councillors, voluntary organisations, local authority neighbourhood panels and community development teams, etc.
  • Identify places to make connections where people meet already, e.g. community cafes, live at home schemes, libraries, community meeting places, food hubs, pubs, places of worship, farmers markets etc.
  • Connect with local engagement leads
  • Contact your local Healthwatch – find their details at: 

Useful principles

Below are some useful principles, to help guide you when looking at co-producing:

  • Get the community involved as soon as possible and maintain an ongoing conversation
  • Build on what already exists such as patient groups that are already established, community meetings already in place and use feedback from current surveys
  • Use community spaces such as community centres, libraries, community cafes, which are often more accessible and inclusive
  • Be open and honest with people, including the ‘tricky issues’
  • Value people’s time and input and ask what support they need
  • Focus on ‘doing things together’ – not just a tick box exercise
  • Listen more, broadcast less
  • Avoid jargon and acronyms
  • Involvement is messy and organic – develop it with people
  • Forethought not an afterthought!

To find out more about co-production, please visit our Co-Production Toolkit at:

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6 April 2022 │ 9:30am - 10:30am │ Virtual: Microsoft Teams

A short, virtual workshop to get to know the key tools needed to start to build effective relationships with partners and service users for better patient outcomes.

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As part of our focus on inclusivity, we wanted to look at the importance of pronouns and how we can support others in making sure we use the correct ones.

When we speak, we often use pronouns for others without even thinking about it – it’s a simple alternative to using their name. These pronouns, however, often have a gender attached to them, and these associations are not always accurate or helpful.

For some, being ‘misgendered’ is an annoyance that can be corrected quickly, but for others it can be extremely hurtful. This is particularly the case for transgender people (whose gender is different to the one they were assigned at birth) or non-binary people (who don’t identify as male or female). Being misgendered can invalidate a person’s sense of who they are, make them feel disrespected, and completely undermine the battle they may have had for years to be recognised as their true selves.

Getting a pronoun right is a great way to respect a person and create a welcoming and inclusive environment. It’s really not difficult, and a little effort can truly go a long way. For information on how you can share your personal pronouns, as well as ask someone else about theirs, please visit: 

Take a look at this helpful video which has been created by Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS FT (CNTW):

You might also be interested in our upcoming session…

Gender Identity and the Impact of Microaggressions

10 March 2022 │ 2:00pm - 3:00pm │ Virtual: Microsoft Teams

This session will provide knowledge of language and information around gender identities and sexualities. 

It will also investigate the term ‘microaggression’. This refers to derogatory remarks and insults which are more and more commonly experienced by people who identify under the LGBT+ bracket. These may be expressed verbally or non-verbally, unintentionally or intentionally, but can leave a lasting impression.

Find out more & book…


Learning from lived experience is a fantastic way for us to gain insight into the experiences of and challenges faced by others.

There are unique stories and perspectives everywhere we look, and it is the responsibility of all of us to listen to others with compassion, taking action to create more welcoming and inclusive environments for both our colleagues and for patients/service users.

During our focus on inclusivity, we'll be sharing some powerful stories from colleagues working for North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS FT (NCIC):

Learning from Lived Experience - Zoe Fullagar, Supporting your LGBT+ Child

Zoe Fullagar, Copeland ICC Manager at NCIC shares her journey as a parent of a transgender man:

Learning from Lived Experience - Rachael Ridley, Transitioning in Cumbria

Rachael Ridley, staff nurse at the Cumberland Infirmary talks through her experience of transitioning in Cumbria:

Learning from Lived Experience - Johnny Nyaaba, Moving to Cumbria from Ghana

Johnny Nyaaba, staff nurse at the Cumberland Infirmary talks through his experience of moving from Ghana to Cumbria and everything that entailed:

North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS FT's (NCIC) staff networks meet on a monthly basis via Microsoft Teams, and provide support and engagement opportunities for those employed by the Trust (as well as those who work for NHS North Cumbria CCG):

  • LGBT+ Staff Network - Supports engagement within the Trust for LGBT+ colleagues and ally's, communications, training opportunities, events such as Cumbria Pride
  • Accessibility / Disability Staff Network - Supports the organisation with accessibility / disability queries including toilets, access, reasonable adjustments, Accessible Information Standard and much more
  • Cultural Diversity Staff Network - The network encompasses faith and ethnicity with support for local events such as Unity and Culture Bazaar and the celebration of Eid ul Adha, Dilwali and other key festivals. The network also supports with communications and ensuring the Trust celebrate all key events with strong links with the Chaplaincy Team, training opportunities both internal and external
  • Armed Forces Staff Network - Supports with community events such as Armed Forces Day and Remembrance Day and other local events, communications to promote Trust ex force / reservist colleagues

To find out more and get involved, please contact Lisa Robinson: