Building carer friendly communities

To mark Health and Wellbeing Day which is part of National Carers Week running from June 6 to 12, NHS England’s Director of Patient Experience recognises the contribution Carers make to families and communities throughout the UK:

This year, Carers Week is focusing on building Carer Friendly Communities. Communities which support carers to look after their family or friends well, while recognising that they are individuals with needs of their own.

The NHS has a part to play in making all communities more carer-friendly. For one thing, we need to recognise that carers are key partners in managing the care needs of the people they look after. That’s not all: carers also form a hugely significant group of patients who need particular support to look after their own health.

From simple one-off actions to ongoing commitments, there are all kinds of ways for health services to recognise carers’ role, involve and consult them about the treatment of the person they care for, and help them look after their own health at the same time.

To build and maintain carer-friendly communities, public services like the NHS, social care and education, need to work more closely together.

To mark Carers’ Week, NHS England has recently published a toolkit to help health services, social care and third sector organisations work together in a joined up way to identify, assess and support carer health and wellbeing. We are encouraging local partnerships to be carer aware and carer-friendly.

I am looking forward to seeing more fantastic programmes during the course of the week.

For many of us, the workplace is an important part of our community and it is important to acknowledge that around three million people currently juggle paid work with caring for a relative or close friend, whilst a staggering 2.3 million people have given up work to care. Women are more likely to be juggling work and care, something which will affect the NHS workforce in particular because of the fact that the vast majority of workers are women.

NHS England has committed to building a culture that is supportive of the community of carers in its workforce. All employees can access free resources through our partnership with Employers for Carers, including information about carers’ rights, flexible working and guides explaining more about being a carer.

Carers at NHS England also have the opportunity to join the 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. I’m looking forward to the first meeting of the network which takes place in Carers’ Week.

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.

Dr Neil Churchill

Neil is Director for People and Communities at NHS England, having joined the NHS after a 25-year career in the voluntary sector. His work includes understanding people’s experiences of the NHS, involving people and communities in decision-making and leading change to improve the quality and equality of care. He has a particular focus on strengthening partnerships with unpaid carers, volunteers and the voluntary sector.

Neil has previously been a non-executive director for the NHS in the South of England, is a member of the Strategy Board for the Beryl Institute and Chair of Care for the Carers in East Sussex. He is himself an unpaid carer. Neil tweets as @neilgchurchill

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  1. David Trigger says:

    Di’s story is becoming the norm, as public transport provision shrinks and the centralisation of NHS services puts a load on the community in terms of extra time spent travelling to/from appointments and the extra costs involved in travel.
    In my area, which is 20 miles from the main acute hospital, it costs £25 for a return trip by community transport from our town to the main hospital + a 2 hour wait.
    Surely the time has come for services to be joined up, with thef public transport system reflecting the requirements of the community.

  2. Di says:

    As a disabled carer of a mentally handicapped son who has current neurological/heart investigations ongoing. I pay all taxi fares to and from his hospital visits so as not to put pressure on the hospital transport service for all 40 yrs of his life. I have only used them twice when I personally needed to go to clinics that have been moved out of the hospital to clinics on the outskirts of town. This carers week I have my apt at the pain clinic and asked for help with transport for me and my son (who I have to have with me 24/7). I was refused because the apt was not for him and I was told to get in touch with social services to get a someone to sit with him for the 6 hrs I may be out of the clinic. I have to cancel my pain clinic (which I have been waiting ages for) because I cannot get there. The transport in Leeds said they are cutting down on people using transport yet my doctor and everyone else knows that I really need it and I certainly don’t abuse it. I have no one that I can leave my son in the care of, that would be able to deal with any problems he may have. I am so upset when I ask for nothing. They would take me but not him but as a carer he is always with me. This country has nothing left of the attributes that made us proud as a nation. There is no great in Britain anymore thanks to this government. What a lovely start to Carers Week.