Evaluation of lived experience Peer Support intervention for mental health service consumers in Primary Care (PS-PC): study protocol for a stepped-wedge cluster randomised controlled trial

Sharon Lawn, Tania Shelby-James, Sam Manger, Louise Byrne, Belinda Fuss, Vivian Isaac, Billingsley Kaambwa, Shahid Ullah, Megan Rattray, Bill Gye, Christine Kaine, Caroline Phegan, Geoff Harris, Paul Worley

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The demand for mental health services in Australia is substantial and has grown beyond the capacity of the current workforce. As a result, it is currently difficult for many to access secondary healthcare providers. Within the secondary healthcare sector, however, peer workers who have lived experience of managing mental health conditions have been increasingly employed to intentionally use their journey of recovery in supporting others living with mental health conditions and their communities. Currently, the presence of peer workers in primary care has been limited, despite the potential benefits of providing supports in conjunction with GPs and secondary healthcare providers.

This stepped-wedge cluster randomised controlled trial (RCT) aims to evaluate a lived experience peer support intervention for accessing mental health care in primary care (PS-PC). Four medical practices across Australia will be randomly allocated to switch from control to intervention, until all practices are delivering the PS-PC intervention. The study will enrol 66 patients at each practice (total sample size of 264). Over a period of 3–4 months, 12 h of practical and emotional support provided by lived experience peer workers will be available to participants. Scale-based questionnaires will inform intervention efficacy in terms of mental health outcomes (e.g., self-efficacy) and other health outcomes (e.g., healthcare-related costs) over four time points. Other perspectives will be explored through scales completed by approximately 150 family members or carers (carer burden) and 16 peer workers (self-efficacy) pre- and post-intervention, and 20 medical practice staff members (attitudes toward peer workers) at the end of each study site’s involvement in the intervention. Interviews (n = 60) and six focus groups held toward the end of each study site’s involvement will further explore the views of participants, family members or carers, peer workers, and practice staff to better understand the efficacy and acceptability of the intervention.

This mixed-methods, multi-centre, stepped-wedge controlled study will be the first to evaluate the implementation of peer workers in the primary care mental health care sector.

Trial registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR) ACTRN12623001189617. Registered on 17 November 2023, https://www.anzctr.org.au/Trial/Registration/TrialReview.aspx?id=386715
Original languageEnglish
Article number319
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2024


  • Mental health
  • Primary care
  • Mental health services
  • Consumers
  • Peer workers
  • Lived experience workforce
  • Cluster-randomised trial


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