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Keeping carers healthy and connected

NHS England’s Director for Experience, Participation and Equalities highlights the importance of Carers Week which starts today:

Each day, 6,000 people start caring for the first time.

Sometimes this is sudden, at other times it’s slower. I’m on that journey myself, as my dad has become very frail in recent months, although my mum is providing support round the clock. I’m therefore very conscious that carers themselves need care.

Caring can be rewarding and fulfilling and can contribute to the carer’s personal growth. However, we know that carers often put their own health and wellbeing needs to the back of the queue so that they risk illness and injury; we know that some carers become socially isolated as a result of their caring role, and we know that many carers suffer from financial hardship through having to reduce their hours of employment, or by stopping working completely.

This is recognised by the Department of Health & Social Care’s new Carers Action Plan which states: “A sustainable social care system for the future is simply not possible without focusing on how our society supports carers.”

Carers Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.

The campaign is brought to life by thousands of individuals and organisations who come together to promote activities and events throughout the UK, drawing attention to just how important caring is.

As my dad has spent that last few weeks in South London hospitals, I’ve seen some fantastic examples of care for the carer which have been encouraged by leadership both on the ward and from the Boardroom. But at other times the carer has been overlooked or taken for granted. We all miss out – patient, carer and staff – when this happens.

This year, Carers Week is focussing on how organisations and individuals can work together to build communities that support the health and wellbeing of carers.

Over the week, a wide range of events will be held focussing on health and social care, carers in employment, young carers in education, and supporting people with a learning disability to live independently in their own homes.

Carers at NHS England have the opportunity to join the Staff Carers Network. This is an online community which provides sign-posting to useful information and contacts, and which also offers peer-to-peer support for those facing similar situations.

By listening to and supporting NHS staff who are themselves carers, we will help the NHS become more carer-aware and effective at recognising and supporting carers.

Some facts

  • 6.5 million people in the UK are carers; that’s 1 in 8 adults (Census 2011)
  • Every day another 6,000 people take on a caring responsibility – that equals over 2 million people every year (Carers UK)
  • 58% of carers are women and 42% are men (Census 2011)
  • The unpaid care provided by the UK’s carers is worth £132 billion per year, an average of 19,336 per carer (Carers UK (2015), University of Sheffield, University of Leeds)
  • Over 3 million people juggle care with work (Census 2011)
  • A BBC Survey (2010) estimated there are more than 700,000 young carers
  • There are 376,000 young adult carers in the UK aged 16-25 (Census 2011)
  • 1 in 5 people aged 50-64 are carers (Census 2011)
Dr Neil Churchill

Dr Neil Churchill is Director for Experience, Participation and Equalities at NHS England.

His brief includes insight and feedback, patient participation in decision-making, improvement programmes on cancer, learning disability and support for carers and national partnerships with volunteers and the voluntary sector.

Neil joined NHS England in 2013 after a 25 year career in the voluntary sector at organisations including Barnardo’s, Age Concern, Crisis and Asthma UK. He has been a Non-Executive Director for NHS South of England, an appointed member of the National Information Governance Board and a trustee of a number of charities across the UK.

Neil is a member of the Executive Board for the Beryl Institute, a change agent from the School for Change Agents and a member of Q, the quality improvement collaborative from the Health Foundation. He tweets as @neilgchurchill.

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2 comments

  1. Keerti Kanani says:

    It is especially hard when the carer ( like my mum) is old themselves and have to care for spouse especially if they have Alzheimer’s/Dementia! They need exceptional support to live independently and should be provided with extra help and means!

    • NHS England says:

      Hi Keerti,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Our work to improve support for older carers and carers for people with dementia, together with that of our allies and partners, is included in the Carers Action Plan, which was published by the Department of Health & Social Care last week.

      Kind regards
      NHS England