Connecting People Implementation Study

Martin Webber Completed   2019


Loneliness and social isolation are widely recognised as significant problems for people with mental health problems. Community mental health teams (CMHTs) provide community support for people with severe and enduring mental health problems, though few evaluations of practice in CMHTs which improve service users’ social connections have been conducted.

Connecting People is strengths-based social care practice which assists people to engage more with their communities and enhance their social connections with others. The programme can improve individuals’ access to social capital (the resourcefulness of someone’s social network).

The Connecting People pilot study (2011–2014), funded by NIHR SSCR, found that when Connecting People was fully integrated into health and social care teams, service users enhanced their connections to family, friends and members of the local community. However, local authority and NHS teams found it difficult to implement Connecting People fully.


This study aimed to investigate if Connecting People could be implemented with high fidelity in community mental health teams (CMHTs) and improve outcomes for mental health service users.


The study used implementation and comparison CMHTs teams in five mental health NHS Trusts to evaluate the implementation of Connecting People by practitioners using a pack of high-quality implementation materials – including practice guidance, training manual, service user’s guide and implementation manual – co-produced by mental health service users and researchers.

Service users (n=159) were recruited and interviewed at the beginning of the study (n=151) and six-months later (n=127) using structured questions.

They were also asked about their experience of being supported to develop their social connections at the follow-up interview.

Practitioners were asked about their experiences in focus groups within the teams taking part in the study.


  • The implementation of Connecting People did not fully occur and no differences in service user outcomes or costs were found.
  • Practitioners noted their high caseloads, understaffing and having to prioritise work with people in crisis often meant that there was not capacity to support service users with their social connections.
  • Community mental health teams (CMHTs) did not sufficiently engage with the local communities of service users to implement Connecting People.
  • Only a minority of service users said that they had had the implementation materials explained to them, indicating that practitioners did not fully engage with them.
  • Many participants in both the control and implementation groups reported improvements in their wellbeing over the course of the study from their increased social connections and/or awareness of local opportunities.