Community Navigator Study

The Community Navigator Study will investigate whether support from a ‘community navigator’ (see below) can help to increase social connections in the community and reduce loneliness for people with persistent anxiety or depression. The programme of support will be tested with service users receiving treatment from the Barnet Complex Care Team (CCT) and Camden and Islington’s Complex Depression, Anxiety and Trauma (CDAT) service.


What is a ‘community navigator’?

Each participant will be offered up to 10 sessions with a community navigator over 6 months.  The community navigator role involves:

  • Working with participants to understand their current social network and what they would like to do going forward.
  • Researching opportunities that fit people’s needs and interests.
  • Going with participants to try out activities and other social opportunities.
  • Bringing participants together at group ‘meetup’ sessions.
  • Providing encouragement and focusing on what a participant can do, rather than focusing on symptoms and what is holding them back.

Why is this research important?

Though everyone experiences loneliness from time to time, people with mental health problems report having smaller social networks. Research has found links between loneliness and shorter life expectancy, as well as reduced rates of recovery from depression and anxiety. It is therefore important that we find out what is effective at helping people with depression and anxiety to feel more connected to others.

Many promising approaches have been developed for reducing loneliness, including support from ‘navigators’, ‘social prescribers’ and ‘well-being coaches’, typically delivered through GP practices. There is, however, a need to understand whether this type of support is helpful for service users accessing secondary mental health services. The Community Navigator study is a small trial, so at this stage, it will help us to understand how people feel about community navigation and whether this type of support is acceptable to them.


How are McPin involved?

The study consists of three phases. The first involves developing a model of community navigator support, alongside the study’s working group, made up of mental health service users, practitioners and researchers. This development work will be informed by research evidence, consultations with staff and service users at the CCT and CDAT services and guidance from practitioners working on programmes targeting loneliness across the country.

The second phase will involve preliminary testing of community navigator support with ten service user participants. Feedback and experience from the preliminary testing will be used to refine the support programme and study procedures for the next phase of the study.

The final phase of the study will involve testing the support with a further forty participants, thirty of whom will receive support from a community navigator, and ten of whom will form a comparison group who do not receive additional support from a community navigator.

The study is led by Professor Sonia Johnson and Dr Bryn Lloyd Evans from the Division of Psychiatry at University College London (UCL). The McPin Foundation will lead on the qualitative component of the study and the running of a co-production group, made up of people with experience of depression/anxiety and loneliness; staff working in the mental health services taking part in the study; and researchers. The co-production group will help to develop the community navigator intervention, advise on its delivery and assist with data analysis and reporting of findings.

Two of the experts by experience who are collaborating on the project wrote a blog about how they were involved in the recruiting the community navigators to make sure that they had the right skills to work with service users.

How long will the project run?

The study began in March 2016 and will run until June 2018. We will make our findings available in summer 2018.


Who do I contact for more information?

For more information about the project, please see UCL’s website, or get in touch with the study researcher by email:, or telephone: 0207 922 7871.