Celebrating and involving carers

To mark Carers Week (12-18 June) we’re taking a look at how St Andrew’s listens to and works with its community of carers – otherwise known as the family and friends of our patients.

More than six million people in the UK are carers, responsible for an ill, frail or disabled person. It can be a very stressful role, especially for those juggling care with work and family life.

Last summer, we showed our commitment to carers by launching the Carers Families and Friends Strategy 2016-2021.

The strategy focuses on four principles in how we aim to work with carers:

  • The patient at the heart of all decisions
  • Greater involvement of families and carers
  • Patients and carers should have an excellent experience of St Andrew’s
  • Feedback from carers and patients is very important

With these in mind, here are just some of the ways that we support and engage with our patients’ family and friends:

​​ 1. Listening

We run annual patient and carer surveys and ensure that people’s comments are acted upon.

​Last year we signed up to be part of Care Opinion, a website where patients and carers can voice their thoughts, good or bad, about St Andrew’s and many other healthcare providers. We respond to every post on this site and it has led to many changes, big and small, across the charity.

We also host many carer events at our sites, bringing people together to share their concerns, review new initiatives and discuss ideas for how St Andrew’s could improve.

2. ​Involvement

Carers, Families and Friends Strategy Monitoring Group events take place regularly at Northampton. These are formal meetings that bring a selection of carers together with senior people from within the charity, to discuss the progress of the overall carer strategy and raise any key issues.

Through these meetings, carers become involved in key projects, such as the creation of a new guide for carers which is now nearing completion. The content of this was entirely led by feedback from our carer community.

3. Explaini​ng

​When a patient is admitted to St Andrew’s it can be a stressful time for their families and friends. Not only do they need to understand how to contact and visit the patient, they need to negotiate their way around the Mental Health Act and understand the various roles within our multi-disciplinary teams.

In addition, some carers may be coming to terms with the background to the patient’s admission, which may involve personal injury or trauma*.

We aim to make it as quick and simple as possible for carers to access the information they need.

In addition to the new guide mentioned above, the new website features a section dedicated to friends and family, which provides the information that they need.

The site also features detailed information and pictures of every ward, something that carers have told us is important. They are reassured to see pictures of typical bedrooms and communal spaces.

4. Relationships

It’s very important that each carer has a regular contact at St Andrew’s, and that they build a good relationship to share updates and information regularly.

In most cases, a carer’s most regular contact is the ward social worker.

Sam Smith, lead social worker in the Women’s pathway, said: “As a social worker, one of the most important parts of our role is to support the patient’s family. In many cases there have been problems in the family or home environment, and rebuilding those relationships can be a vital part of the recovery journey.

“It’s very rewarding to play a part in helping a patient overcome past problems and build healthy, strong bonds with their loved ones.”

 

FEEDBACK

Our approach is winning approval from the carer community. Recent comments from carers include:

“Everyone is so helpful. They make you know that they care and you feel they do.”

“I am very impressed with the care that [name] is receiving and that the nursing staff have done a brilliant job in supporting him, getting him to where he is now compared to how he was when he was first admitted.”

“I found the carers event well-prepared and well-presented. I enjoyed the interaction with other carers and parents.”

“I’d like to thank everyone at St Andrews and especially all the staff who work on DRU for the care and help that was given to [name] during his 4.5 years with yourselves. He always seemed happy when we visited and would smile at the staff. I always found the staff on the ward polite and helpful when I phoned to check how dad was or to book a visit.”

* One of our carers has explained what it’s like to be in this situation in this video.