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The nature of peer support

Peer support is one of the interventions within a wider comprehensive approach to assisting staff to cope with the stress that comes from their work. It describes a supportive relationship between people who have experiences in common. In the NHS context, peer support describes the work of healthcare practitioners who provide emotional and social support for colleagues who share a common work experience in the same speciality. Peer support can be provided in both group and one-to-one relationships and can take place in community groups, clinical settings, and workplaces. Regardless of its setting, peer support is considered to have value, either on its own or as a complement to clinical care.

An important corollary is a necessity for practitioners who offer and receive peer support to recognise the limitations of this approach and what it is not. It is not, for example, a form of counselling or psychotherapy and, quite properly, there are limitations to the confidentiality that one member of staff should offer another.

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