Our long term commitment to carers

NHS England’s Director for Experience, Participation and Equalities looks at how the Long Term Plan for the NHS will impact on carers:

It’s often said that all of us are patients at some time in our lives but it’s less often acknowledged that most of us will also be unpaid carers too.

Nearly one in five people who responded to our GP Patient Survey said they had caring responsibilities and, as society ages, every year we see a million people become carers for the first time.

The NHS depends on the vital contribution carers make but people looking after family or friend need to feel recognised and supported. That’s why the NHS LongTerm Plan, launched yesterday, outlines the most ambitious ever set of NHS Commitments to Carers.

We’ve already made progress since the launch of the Five Year Plan in improving the identification and support of carers. Integrated Care Systems across a third of the country have identified almost a third of carers living in their communities and are making sure they have access to flexible appointments, support groups and carers breaks.

Leading NHS Trusts have developed carer passports that provide bespoke rights, support, discounted parking and catering. Young carers have worked with us to raise awareness of their experiences among health professionals and share top tips on providing better support. And our new Quality Markers for primary care identify best practice in carer identification and support.

The new plan pledges to maintain our focus on identifying and supporting carers and makes some important new pledges.

First, carers should not have to deal with emergencies on their own. We will ensure that up to 100,000 carers have appropriate back-up support in place for when they need it and have that information included in their Summary Care Records for when they, or health and care professionals working with them, might need it.

Second, we need to prevent young carers struggling on their own with difficult and multiple challenges. We will roll out ‘top tips’ for general practice, developed by Young Carers, which will give up to 20,000 young people better access to preventive health and social prescribing and timely referral to local support services

Third, carers from excluded and marginalised communities are more likely to suffer from poor health, due to a lack of information and support, finance concerns, stress and social isolation. We will work with those communities to improve care and narrow the gap.

Fourth, we will spread what works across the country. We will encourage the national adoption of carer passports and set out guidelines for their use based on trials in Manchester and Bristol. These will be complemented by developments to electronic health records, that allow people to share their caring status with healthcare professionals wherever they present.

As well as these specific commitments to carers, other elements of the Long Term Plan will have a positive impact too, such as the commitment to improve flexibility and wellbeing in employment for NHS staff with caring responsibilities. We will also help young carers who so wish to use their life experience to extend their skills in volunteering, apprenticeships and NHS employment.

If we are to build an NHS that is fit for the future then carers must be full partners in the way we deliver that care.

We must join up our services around their needs as well as those of the patient and we must help them look after their health and wellbeing to enable them to sustain their vital caring role.

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. Valerie williams says:

    I have never seen this committment in operation..rather it is the absolute opposite. The carers health is maginalised esoecially physical health.

  2. Fleur Taylor says:

    Thank you for supporting carers.
    Not sure if this idea has been offered before.
    Sending packs to large companies to highlight the responsibilities carers have to endure on a daily basis.
    I myself had to leave my job to be a full time carer for my father.
    When I started the job my father was well so I was able to do many extra hours for the company. Some weeks I would do 47 hours per week.
    When my father became very ill I had to reduce my hours.
    I felt like I was not worthy anymore. I was given jobs which I never did when I was full time. It made me feel very low.
    We’re under so much pressure being a carer and for a company to treat you differently made it even worse.
    Maybe getting them to understand how hard it is being carer would give them some idea what the person is going through.
    When you are a carer you are a
    Personal shopper
    A dispenser
    Personal hygiene
    A voice
    The list goes on.
    Great idea as long as they abide.

  3. Ann Clifford says:

    I am a full time carer for my husband and sadly most Hospitals exclude me as a carer. As soon as my husband is in hospital it is as though I don’t matter even though he wants me to stay with him as much as possible we are told visiting times only! I also think that GPs could be more supportive. Carers passports sound like a good idea, hurry up with them please. I am very tired of having to fight to be allowed to support my husband in Hospital

  4. C Sutton says:

    What we need is easy access to all the different departments. My wife had another assessment for her dementia by our local wellbeing centre at the Chadwell centre in Paignton and a new care plan was drawn up. She has now been discharged and no follow up planned. If we need their help we need to go back to the GP and be referred again. What good is that.
    Every time we need help it takes numerous telephone calls to get to the right person. As for CHC funding I would need far more space than allowed here.
    I am often told you have some respite while she is in day care. Most of this time is spent filling in forms, making phone calls and fighting for her rights.
    This causes more stress than looking after her.

  5. Ephra Livesey says:

    As a Carer myself I welcome the commitment to supporting the health and wellbeing of Carers. However my experience does not resonate with the rhetoric set out above. It is not possible to take carer breaks caring for a spouse with terminal cancer, and a child with a newly diagnosed long-term autoimmune condition. There is, quite simply, no support available. I have worked as a carer now for 12 months with no break at all. The cost to my health, and my ability to work, has been enormous.
    The lack of formal support for about-to-be bereaved children is (who have in the last 12 months been Young Carers for both their parents) is completely absent, bar Maggie’s cancer charity.
    The financial strain has meant no birthday parties, and, for seven months, I was unable to feed my children properly. I have not been able to socialise with friends (I.e, go out for a cup of coffee) for 12 months now, because the impact of caring on our family finances means I cannot eat away from home.