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Cygnet’s Expert by Experience – the story so far

In August 2016 we were delighted to announce the appointment of Rafik ‘Raf’ Hazmaizia as Cygnet’s first Expert by Experience. In the following article Raf gives an overview of how his first few months have gone, the projects he has been involved in and the people he has met at Cygnet.

Raf Hamaizia

It has been a good few months since I first started working alongside our Director of Nursing, Julie Kerry in improving people’s experience of using Cygnet services, particularly around user involvement. As an introduction, I have been going around to different hospitals and meeting with lots of staff and people who are accessing services.

I have seen good examples of really well-run sites where staff are doing a great job, like Rachel Kitten (Deputy Head of Occupational Therapy) at Cygnet Hospital Blackheath who is passionate about involvement and pro-active in engaging with people through putting on local events and forums.


I have seen great examples of Recovery Colleges at both Cygnet Hospital Beckton and Cygnet Hospital Derby where staff like Jennifer Beal (Head of Occupational Therapy) and Louise Bannister (Ward Manager) are making it work and clearly having a beneficial impact on the people taking part. I have spoken to service users, two of whom, who at different hospitals and who do not even know each other told me “The staff (on the ward) are like my family”.


On the other end of the spectrum, I have been able to take part in board meetings, staff interviews and steering groups where I have been met by senior staff who are open to challenge, innovation an improvement. Whether it is the Recovery College steering group which is a great example of coproduction or the Reducing Restrictive Practice board where members include people who actually know what’s happening on the ground.

“A power shift is happening, where people with lived experience are at the heart of services and leading the way for reform.”Rafik Hamaizia, Expert By Experience Lead

As someone who has accessed services in the past, I have found that in the real-world it can sometimes be difficult to be taken seriously, but I can honestly say I have not felt that way once during my time working with Cygnet. A power shift is happening, where people with lived experience are at the heart of services and leading the way for reform, I think not only does the Group as a whole recognize this, but perhaps, more importantly, are supporting it.


We now have a group of Experts by Experience, including myself and have lots of new initiatives on the way, such as the Cygnet Peoples Council which will include both former and current service users, Experts by Experience and Carers. This will ensure that involvement is happening from the Ward to the Board and people are being heard loud and clear.


I am looking forward to continuing my work with Cygnet and visiting the rest of the sites. For those at sites who I have not got around to visiting yet , I am coming soon and if you see a young man with a camouflage suitcase full of chocolates… it’s me!

Rafik Hamaizia – Expert By Experience Lead

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