Carers want recognition and true collaboration with services

Liz Norton is a carer who looks after a family member who lives with mental health issues.  Last month, Liz, fellow carer Rose Chitseko and colleagues from Healthwatch Essex visited the Department of Health. Here, she presents a personal perspective on caring and explains why others in her situation should consider contributing to the call for evidence before it closes later this month.

Liz Norton: ‘We [want] recognition as involved experts in the care of people we love.’

Why you ask, would I be invited to the Department of Health (DH)? Why would they be interested in me?

Answer: Both Rose and I are carers for family members and Healthwatch Essex invited us to join them speak with Mark Browne, the Carer Policy Lead at the department.

Mark and his team are collecting our experiences and views to inform a new government strategy for carers that will outline how support can be improved.

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This strategy will aim to reflect carer’s lives now and set out what more can be done to offer quality support in the future.

After introductions and lots of photographs, we were taken to their big and rather daunting executive boardroom!

We were put very much at ease by everyone as Rose, Tom Nutt, the Chief Executive Officer of Healthwatch Essex and myself chatted to the Carers Policy Team about our role as carers. We went on to discuss what carers’ day to day lives actually look like.

We explained that we wanted recognition as involved experts in the care of people we love, and support from all the organisations with which we indirectly collaborate. Rose and I were now in our comfort zone and happy to talk about the job of caring having spent many years in this vital role.

We discussed the Healthwatch Essex Carers Said report, which outlines what Healthwatch Essex has learnt by listening to hundreds of carers.

Their work provides a fantastic insight into the lived experience of carers and highlights our hugely diverse needs and experiences.

The report includes quotes from carers themselves. What comes through time and time again is that services are fragmented, inconsistent and information not helpfully shared between statutory organisations.

Rose and I felt very inspired to talk about how carers feel and the importance of listening to what we say about our caring role and felt empowered being together to share this great day.

We welcome the development of the new Carers Strategy, this feels like something very exciting for all carers. The strategy is going to focus on topics like better carer’s health…something which has often been overlooked in the past and yet is hugely important for the whole family.

DH will be taking into account what carers say through their online survey How can we improve support for carers? in order to help them develop this strategy and they will want to hear from carers and the people they care for. They also want information from all the professionals that support the carers so that they can develop the strategy and understand the complexity of our caring roles.

To assist them in gathering this vital information I would like to call on all carers to fill in the online survey How can we improve support for carers? before it closes later this month on 31 July.  It’s so important that carers take the time to fill this in as it’s a chance for as many carers as possible to have your say – it is vital that as carers we are really heard and not just paid lip service to.

I would like to think this is more than another exercise to pacify carers but rather a real advancement in how our caring needs are met, it is vital that all professionals listen to what carers have to say if we are to move on.

Thank you to Tom Nutt, Yvette Wetton, and all the staff from Healthwatch Essex for their support and for a great day, where we feel we helped make a difference to carers. Support for carers has come a long way but there is still a lot of work to do to ensure that carers are being listened to, and properly supported in continuing in their caring role.

“There’s a long way to go to reach properly supported caring roles”

Better care package for severely injured veterans

A new system to give seriously injured veterans better lifelong assistance has been announced by Defence Minister Mark Lancaster today.

This summer, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) will launch a pilot of the new Integrated High Dependency Care System (IHDCS) – designed to ensure a small group of personnel and veterans who need additional support as a result of severe injuries sustained during operations benefit from enhanced on-going assistance.

The IHDCS is a fully joined-up system of care which, for eligible cases, will thoroughly assess the individual for his or her specific care needs and co-ordinate the best delivery of services through the NHS, the MOD, the charitable sector and elsewhere. This improved management of funds, services and equipment aims to greatly improve the individual’s quality of life.

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The IHDCS follows recent announcements to offer further support to amputees, including additional access to on-going support from the world-class Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre (DMRC) at Headley Court and potentially life-changing Direct Skeletal Fixation (DSF) surgery at the public expense.

Defence Minister Mark Lancaster said:

Our Armed Forces make great sacrifices to protect the nation. Where they sustain serious injuries, they deserve seamless, well delivered, support. This will help ensure that’s exactly what they receive.

As well as reducing the burden on the patient, the co-ordinated approach of the IHDCS, delivered in partnership with the Department of Health and NHS England, will mean individuals’ cases will be viewed holistically, providing them with confidence that their needs will be met for the rest of their lives.

This is another commitment under the Armed Forces Covenant – the promise that service people and their families are treated fairly in civilian life. The Government enshrined the key principles of the Covenant in law in 2011.

In addition, while the DMRC at Headley Court has long provided world-class rehabilitation and prosthetic support for serving personnel, a number of veterans with complex, amputation-related complications are now also receiving prosthetic support at the site, through the recently established Veterans Complex Prosthetic Assessment Clinic (CPAC).

Early feedback from CPAC has been positive, and the Government is continuing to work closely alongside relevant charities to ensure that veterans are fully aware of the initiatives and the benefits that it can offer them.

The Direct Skeletal Fixation pilot (also known as Osseo-Integration), due to run for two or more years, has already enabled some to have potentially life-changing surgery. The procedure involves inserting titanium prosthetics directly into a bone, offering greater freedom from the limitations and complications commonly associated with socket based prosthetic systems. It has the potential to give long term health benefits and reduced dependency.

“Lets hope as many as possible receive this assistance”