Thank you for today

The Chief Nursing Officer for England marks Young Carers Awareness Day, which recognises more than 700,000 young people in the UK who provide care and support to family and friends:

As part of the Commitment to Carers NHS England has worked with young carers to make sure that their voices are directing the actions we take to promote awareness and help us make improvements across the NHS.

These are designed to better identify and provide support to meet their needs and to ensure they have choice and balance between being a young person, education, health and their caring responsibilities.

A young carer is someone under 18 who helps look after someone in their family, or a friend, who is ill, disabled or misuses drugs or alcohol. Young adult carers are young people aged 16 – 25 who care, unpaid, for a family member or friend with an illness or disability, mental health condition or addiction (ref Carers Trust 2015). Stories from some of the UK’s young carers can be found on the Carers Trust website.

Young carers perform lots of tasks within their caring responsibilities, which could include:

  • Practical tasks – cooking, housework, shopping
  • Physical tasks – supporting someone getting out of bed
  • Personal care
  • Looking after the family budget
  • Responsibility for prescriptions and giving someone their medications
  • Looking after a parent, brothers and sisters as well as wider family members and sometimes friends

It has long been recognised that there is a key gap in supporting young carers and young adult carers. This includes under-recognising and under-identification of those young people and young adults who have caring responsibilities.

NHS commissioners and providers are working with education, social care and carers’ organisations to continue to improve the identification of young carers and the support that they are offered and receive. For example, East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust will be inviting young carers to an event and will facilitate an activity that supports young carers to discuss, with health professionals, the issues that are important to them.

This will support the Trust nurse leaders to understand how it feels to be a young carer attending the emergency department, what it is like on the wards, and essentially what would make a difference to improve experiences for them and those they care for.

NHS England continues to develop and work towards its Commitment to Carers. Supporting young people with caring responsibilities is a major aspect of this work and includes:

  • Developing resources to raise awareness of the needs of young carers, specifically in relation to their mental health and wellbeing
  • Resources to help young carers coping with bereavement
  • Support for a schools-based programme supporting young carers who have a family member with mental illness
  • Promoting a whole family approach to the identification and assessment of carers working in partnership with social care colleagues.

In 2015 young carers worked with us to produce a short film to raise awareness of what is was like to be a young carer.

So today I want to do two things:

I encourage you to think how you engage with young carers and how you can use their experiences and feedback to ensure support is available and accessible to them.

I also want to say a very big ‘Thank you’ to all young carers, who do so much to support others, and from whom we can all learn a lot.

Jane Cummings

Professor Jane Cummings is the Chief Nursing Officer for England and Executive Director at NHS England.

Jane specialised in emergency care and has held a wide variety of roles across the NHS including Director of Commissioning, Director of Nursing and Deputy Chief Executive.

In February 2004, she became the national lead for emergency care agreeing and implementing the 98% operational standard. She has also worked as the nursing advisor for emergency care. In January 2005, she was appointed as the National Implementation Director for ‘Choice’ and ‘Choose and Book’.

Jane moved to NHS North West in November 2007 where she held executive responsibility for the professional leadership of nursing, quality, performance as well as QIPP, commissioning and for a time Deputy Chief Executive Officer. In October 2011, she was appointed to the role of Chief Nurse for the North of England SHA Cluster.

She was appointed as Chief Nursing Officer for England in March 2012 and started full time in June 2012. Jane is the professional lead for all nurses and midwives in England (with the exception of public health) and published the ‘6Cs’ and ‘Compassion in Practice’ in December 2012, followed by publishing the ‘Leading Change, Adding Value’ framework in May 2016.

Jane has executive oversight of maternity, patient experience, learning disability and, in January 2016, became executive lead for Patient and Public Participation.

She was awarded Doctorates by Edge Hill University and by Bucks New University, and she is a visiting professor at Kingston University and St George’s University, London.

She is also Director and trustee for Macmillan Cancer Support and a clinical Ambassador for the Over the Wall Children’s Charity where she volunteers as a nurse providing care for children affected by serious illnesses.

Follow Jane on Twitter: @JaneMCummings.