Date published: 17 November 2023

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It’s not often I write a blog that’s connected to a forthcoming awareness day, simply because there are so many of them, but I’m going to make an exception and talk about unpaid adult and young carers. Every day, thousands of people start caring for the first time. Carers are so important, and represent a growing, often overlooked part of our communities, and their support has such a huge impact on the health and care system.

It's quite likely that each and every one of us may have some caring responsibilities at some point in our lives, whether it’s for a parent or grandparent, a child, or maybe a friend or a neighbour who has a long-term health condition or a disability.  It’s been an accepted part of society for as long as I can remember, but who is caring for our carers? How are they coping? How are their health and care needs being met while they provide round the clock care to keep others safe, well, and independent?

Here at Mersey Care, our carers have always remained a priority. We have worked in partnership with carers’ groups and local care organisations to develop a range of useful resources which are on our website and aim to provide holistic support, as well as ensuring our carers’ voices are listened to and heard as part of decision making, service change, and improvements.

As we approach Carers Rights Day on 23 November, I thought now would be a good time to explain our Carers’ Strategic Plan and how we aim to achieve our objectives. The process to develop our strategic plan began with a series of carer’s consultation events last year which informed our five priorities for the next three years. They are:

  • Recognise and support carers
  • Identify and support young carers to achieve their full potential
  • Improve skills and training for carers and our workforce
  • Keep carers connected and involved
  • Carer diversity to be effectively and meaningfully supported.

The Carer Engagement Team is working with our ward staff to embed the carer’s passport which aims to support carers of patients within our inpatient settings, identifying their needs, improving communication, and emotional support, and keeping them connected and involved.

Other areas of focus include the relaunch of the Triangle of Care accreditation (a self assessment tool for mental health providers developed by the Carers’ Trust in 2010). I’m extremely proud of the fact Mersey Care was the first Trust in the country to achieve two star Triangle of Care status and we plan to achieve three star status by the end of 2024, demonstrating our commitment to being carer inclusive, supportive and working on innovative ways to make additional improvements.

The team is also establishing carer champions in all our services, carer awareness training, delivery of practical support for carers in our workforce, developing carer volunteer roles, improving data capture on our carers and further development of our young carer guidance.

You can see how the Carer Engagement Team have fared so far this year in the below infographic.

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According to our 2022 NHS Staff Survey, 42.3 percent of staff declared they looked after or provide support to care for others. This follows a worrying national trend with a report last year from NHS Employers titled: ‘Supporting Staff with Caring Responsibilities’ claiming 6,000 people become carers every day and an estimated 3.7 million people are working carers in England and Wales.

We know there are a growing number of people juggling their jobs as they need financial stability as well as being able to fulfil their caring responsibilities, with an estimated 250,000 carers working in the NHS alone, many of whom are aged between 45-64 and are likely to be among the most experienced and skilled staff. It’s vital we support and understand the pressures they face so they can be well supported and able to balance the two effectively.

During Carer’s Week earlier this year, the Trust held three staff engagement sessions to find out what further help our staff with caring responsibilities need from the organisation.

The feedback, and our response to it, is now being discussed at Board level. We want Mersey Care to become an exemplar, conscientious and flexible employer and it’s only by listening and acting upon feedback that we can achieve this.

There’s two key points I would like readers to take away from this:

  1. If you are a carer, please make sure you get help support and guidance you need to access support, services and benefits.
  2. Managing care and coming to work can be very challenging, so it’s really important to be aware of your employment and contractual rights and be able to strike a balance, please make your employer aware that you are a carer.

We owe a huge amount of thanks and appreciation to our unpaid carers for the care and time they dedicate to their family and friends.

Thank you for all you do.

Prof Joe Rafferty CBE

Chief Executive Officer

Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust