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The new chief executive of NHS England today (Wednesday) paid tribute to carers for their “immense contribution” as he pledged to do more to help them.
He has committed his organisation to do more to support the millions of people providing unpaid care, their number having grown by 600,000 over the past decade.
NHS England has for the first time asked carers on a national basis what support they would like from the NHS.
Carers, charities and partner organisations have worked with NHS England to draw up eight priorities – and 37 commitments – that will help the NHS to deliver the care and support carers have said they need.
These include a national event for young carers, a carers’ champion on the board of NHS England, and promoting carers’ interests through, for example, work on personalised care planning, end of life care and dementia.
Simon Stevens, who today will be meeting carers during a visit to Manchester, said: “Carers are hugely important to our society, their contribution is immense. Over 1.4 million people provide 50 or more hours of unpaid care per week for a partner, friend or family member.
In terms of providing care, they are often doing most of the work so it is vital that we in the NHS give them the recognition and help they need. We also need to remember how the demands of caring can take its toll on people’s own health. We need to care for the carers.”
Simon Stevens pointed to research from Carers UK which shows:
- Full-time carers are over twice as likely to be in bad health as non-carers (Census, 2011) and in the 2014 State of Caring Survey 80 per cent of carers surveyed said caring has had a negative impact on their health.
- As well as the physical strain of caring, the pressure of providing care to a loved one can have a serious impact on mental well-being with 73 per cent of carers surveyed reporting increased anxiety and 82 per cent increased stress (State of Caring Survey, 2014).
- Across the population an estimated 2.3 million people have given up work to care and 3 million have reduced working hours at some point, to provide care for a loved one (Caring & Family Finances Inquiry UK report, Carers UK, 2014).
NHS England’s eight priorities in its Commitment to Carers publication are:
- Raising the profile of carers among staff, stakeholders and partners, making them aware of what carers do and how they can be helped
- Improving education, training and information for staff, stakeholders and partners, increasing awareness of what it means to be a carer
- Developing services, with NHS England investigating how carers are involved and where initiatives may be developed to make their role easier.
- Providing person-centred, well-coordinated care – this includes providing better information, involving carers and patients and giving them more control
- Considering how carers may be helped through primary care, working with our partners to identify, measure and share best practice.
- Evaluating commissioning support, assessing the impact of services and policies on the role of carers.
- Helping to build, sustain and develop links between health, social services, charities and other key partners that will support carers
- Continuing to offer policies on flexible working, leave and employment to support the carers among NHS England staff.
Neil Churchill, NHS England’s Director for Improving Patient Experience, says: “While carers should receive consistently great experiences of care, they have told us that they can hit a crisis point when it is difficult or impossible to cope.
“The recognition and support our commitments will offer can prevent that from happening and help carers continue to look after themselves and their loved ones.”
Martin McShane, NHS England’s Director for People with Long-Term Conditions, says: “Personally and from previous work as a GP, I know at first hand the benefits that unpaid carers – parents, partners, children, friends and neighbours – have for the people for whom they care as well as the challenges that they face on a daily basis.
“As health and care professionals, we need to recognise and support the contribution that carers make and the expertise that they bring. This is particularly important in helping us all meet the growing challenge from long-term conditions and delivering high quality care which is person-centred and well-coordinated.”
NHS England’s board champion for carers, Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England, says: “Millions of people offer a lifeline to help and support their loved ones. My family and I have personal experience of caring for loved ones and I understand the impact this can have.
“After listening to carers came NHS England’s Commitment to Carers which recognises the invaluable contribution carers are making every single day to those that need it the most. We are dedicated to making sure we provide the support, care and guidance they need, for themselves as well as those they care for. Providing that support to people is a huge privilege which I feel really passionate about.”
Dame Philippa Russell, Chair of the Standing Commission on Carers, says: “As a family carer who has just completed half a century of caring, I warmly welcome the NHS’s commitment to carers.
“Like the National Carers Strategy for care and support, the NHS Commitment to Carers both recognises and celebrates the contribution of carers to the well-being of many of our most vulnerable citizens.
“It also acknowledges and sets out the challenge for carers and their partners in health and social care as they start out on a new journey where the contribution of carers is respected, supported and valued as integral to the health and well-being of the nation.”