Winner: Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumbria Mental Health trust A partnership initiative: service users carry out interviews with people who have recently been discharged from inpatient rehabilitation services to gauge their level of satisfaction. The partners are the East Loan rehabilitation unit, the psychology and clinical governance departments of the Northumberland Locality of the trust and Northumberland User Voice. The partners devised a questionnaire looking at seven key areas for people with mental health problems, such as housing, daily living activities and physical and mental health.

ManagementWork began six years ago, after a staff study day. A steering group involving all the partners has met regularly throughout the process and manages day-to-day running. This feeds into the East Loan clinical governance team, which feeds into other clinical governance forums. There is a service agreement between the trust and User Voice, specifying roles, responsibilities, support and payments for service users taking part. The future of the project is guaranteed for the next five years.

Innovations and successesThe project has increased the direct contribution of service users to service development. Information from the project will be used to influence the development of plans for a new hospital. A user involvement team has been established to set objectives for working in partnership. As a result, a system has been developed to involve users in staff recruitment. The team will address the need for a user development worker and involving service users in planning their own services.

The judges said: The embodiment of effective service development, making a real difference to the lives of people using the service - in the words of the user group co-ordinator: 'You can breathe the atmosphere'. The project has also been effectively linked to clinical governance. It could be repeated everywhere.

Project: Partnership can be more than a word: evaluation of East Loan inpatient rehabilitation service Contact: Clinical governance officer Catheryn Marr, tel: 01670-512121 Runner-up: Northern Birmingham Mental Health trust Project: Asian services Contact: Lakhvir Rellon, tel: 0121-685 7120 Northern Birmingham Mental Health trust recognised that it was not meeting the needs of Asian and African-Caribbean people. A strategy for the latter group was commissioned in 1997.

An Asian services development manager was appointed in 1998.

Community views were sought, and the outcomes used to develop a three-year strategy for change.

The Asian service development team is now looking to implement the strategy. There are six priority areas of work. These include challenging discriminatory practice, improving the involvement of Asian staff, users and carers in the trust, and developing new volunteer and community programmes.

Management The trust created a permanent senior management post for the project, with a budget and access to other senior managers, particularly the chief executive. Lots of differing expectations were managed. Users and carers were involved on an equal basis to the professionals.

Innovations and successesMechanisms have been developed to disseminate information in appropriate formats and languages to Asian communities - videos, drama, radio, posters and special events have all been used. Training for users, carers and staff ensures consultation is meaningful and of mutual benefit. Specific outcomes include: befrienders/ advocates visit users in hospital; strong links have been established with the media (the launch of a suicide video attracted 25 requests for interviews); more Asian people are applying for job vacancies and an Asian volunteer development programme has been set up.

The judges said: This service has made highly impressive progress, empowering Asian communities and helping them advocate for change themselves. The staff show fantastic energy, which has been backed up at the top of the trust, and a highly creative approach to finding levels for change.

Runner-up: South Birmingham Mental Health trust Project: Education Link Contact: Sue Ash, tel: 0121-678 3350 This project started in 1995 when five service users attended a short 'taster' course at Bournville College for Further Education.

The project has expanded considerably since then - 230 users enrolled on discrete courses in 2000-01 and it works with a number of colleges, community mental health centres and employment services.

The project aims to improve the wellbeing of mental health service users, who can be socially excluded, by making use of nonstigmatising, community facilities. It aims to integrate mental health provision with other community facilities.

Management The project is run by a manager and three support workers. Referrals are received from clinicians within community mental health teams and other specialist teams. In future, referrals from GPs may be possible through a primary care liaison team. There are continuous staff and systems appraisal and user feedback.

Innovations and successes Education Link grew out of an idea from five service users. New initiatives, such as a mental health forum, ensure that those who use the service continue to shape it. The project provides users with clear, non-pressured progression routes and advice on returning to work. Of the 230 people referred to the project last year, 150 received certificates.

The judges said: The Education Link project has achieved an impressive level of integration with care planning and the work of community mental health teams, and a real impact on both the trust and local colleges. Evaluation has been thorough and the service has enrolled large numbers of people.