Carers assessment service wins coveted NHS England award


Carers assessment service wins coveted NHS England award

Across Somerset there’s a large team of many dedicated and selfless people who care and support their loved ones with mental health.

Sometimes, though, it’s those very people who need support themselves, and it’s really important not to forget to care for our carers.

Introducing our carers assessment service colleagues, who provide support to all those unpaid carers of people who are known to our community mental health teams, home treatment team, dementia services, child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), or mental health inpatient wards.

And recently there’s cause for celebration for the team, after they won an NHS England South West Personalised Care ‘Giving Confidence’ award for the six week carers education course that it helped set up two years ago.

The carers education course was set up as a trial and run as a partnership between our carers assessment service, the Somerset Recovery College, and St Mungo’s – a charity working on behalf of the homeless.

The first four sessions of the course were developed by carers for carers, led by our colleagues in Bath and North East Somerset, and our team created an additional two sessions, that were run by a clinical psychologist and mental health pharmacist.

Deputy manager of the service, Samantha Pike, explains why the team chose to get involved with the carers education project.

“Over the last few years we’ve had many requests from carers for support and education on the needs of mental health carers,” she says.

“Much of this was in response to the World Health Organisation's report on health literacy, which highlighted the need for individuals and communities to be able to access, understand, appraise and use information and services to make decisions about health.

“The aim of our course was to create a supportive environment for people caring for those with a mental health condition using self-management education.

“We wanted to help them to develop the skills needed to effectively manage their own health as carers, and that of the people they support.

“The sessions included understanding mental health conditions, supporting people with mental health challenges to make changes, conflict and crisis, dealing with emotional distress and a relaxation session, as well as understanding mental health medications.

“During the sessions, participants were encouraged to talk with each other about the information being shared and how this was relevant to them individually.

“Those who took part gave incredible feedback, rating it 5 out of 5…and since then participants have formed their own peer support group that we help to facilitate, which our chief executive Peter Lewis has attended to hear the about the challenges of being a carer of those with mental health.

“They continue to support each other and have opened a line of communication with the professionals involved in the care of their loved ones.”

Due to the success and feedback, the course has been run three more times, with recommendations from the participants helping to develop the course further each time.

The improvements to the course have included the need for more interaction with dealing with distress, practical scenarios and a focus on different mental health conditions.

“The course has been integral in developing mental health carers’ resilience in dealing with their own mental health, as well as a better understanding of those that they support,” Samantha continues.

“It has given them confidence to understand care pathways, their rights as carers to be involved and included in their loved one’s care.

“Increasing the confidence of carers improves their mental wellbeing, as well as their ability to reach out to the professionals supporting their loved ones, ensuring prompt support and prevention of longer term issues.”

Our carers assessment service also runs a series of carers’ support groups, one-to-one support, and colleagues provide a listening ear for carers too, as well as signposting to support such as food banks or other wellbeing services.

Samantha continues: “The main part of what we offer is the assessment and conversation we have with the carer, where we look to understand their needs, so we can best support them to keep looking after their loved one.

“Carers in general are an unrecognised part of our society and just every little thing we can do to support that is really important for them as well.

“We’re very much a tiny part of the organisation, but we’re privileged every day to have carers sharing their stories with us, and then be able to think about what we can do to support them.

“It feels absolutely amazing for us to have won this personalised care award, and I’m really proud of our entire team.

“Although it was Tony Green, our volunteer, and myself who went to collect the award, it’s something that truly belongs to everyone on the team.”

A huge congratulations to everyone in our carers assessment service!