NHS England recently published an End of Year Progress Summary reviewing progress made on 37 commitments made to carers in May 2014. The Commitments to Carers were based on what carers said was important to them. A good start has been made with 32 commitments completed and others continuing to be monitored. But more work needs to be done on the Five Year Forward View commitment to finding new ways to support carers. In the first of a series of blogs, Dr Martin McShane, NHS England’s Director for Long Term Conditions, explains why the work is so vital:
There was a moment I will always remember from my time working in General Practice.
I was visiting a young person with complex needs. As I spoke with the mother I opened the floodgates to her distress, fatigue and anger by just asking how she coped.
It gave me a profound insight and established a relationship where not taking for granted what she did became as important to me as the care of her child. Many of you reading this will also have experienced caring for loved ones and the emotional and physical demands it places on us.
This is why NHS England set about working with carers and organisations to commit to actions that would systematically raise the profile and importance of over five million people who provide significant amounts of care to people who often have major needs.
It is why we have worked with those same people to set out what progress we have made against those commitments. Although progress has been made there is more still to do and the journey must continue.
What I sense is that this is the tip of a significant change happening across the NHS. There is a growing awareness that the NHS will only be sustained if it appreciates the potential of not just the professionals working within it but also the value individuals and their carers bring; on a scale which dwarfs their interactions with professionals.
It is estimated there are a million people providing unpaid care for over 50 hours a week. This is comparable with the entire workforce of the NHS. In addition there are assets available in communities which, in many circumstances, could support both people with persistent health problems and their carers. We need to work collectively and that means supporting carers as much as possible.
There remains, however, a culture of exclusion for carers that needs to be tackled. This will come through action from the centre, as we have set out, but also because we are all customers and owners of the NHS.
An example of this is John’s campaign which in a short space of time has raised the importance of letting carers stay with people who have dementia when they are admitted to hospital and been implemented across numerous organisations.
Carers need to be valued, respected and supported. This requires the right attitudes and behaviours from those they come in contact with. Our ambition is to realise the clarion call set out by National Voices to understand not just the individual with needs but also their carers.
It won’t happen overnight but we will show determination and continue to build on the progress so far.
- Tomorrow, Mandy Rudczenko tells her story about life as carer, its challenges and what NHS England Commitments to Carers means to her.