Many carers currently struggle to have their role recognised by health and care professionals. This has a negative impact on the patient, but can also affect the carer’s own health and wellbeing, resulting in increased need for health service interventions.
While there are a number of Carer Friendly initiatives across the NHS, there is little uniformity and support to carers can vary enormously. The Carer Passport can focus and articulate the support offer.
The case for carers
When my mum-in-law was in hospital, I felt that I was being over-looked by the staff and I approached the patients help system. I was then told about the Passport. Using it meant I could then go into the ward outside of visiting hours, so was there when doctors came round. I was also able to help with her personal care. It was extremely useful, but a shame that I only found out about it when I was distressed about how I was being side-lined.
Carers will be better supported at an earlier stage, with positive consequences for their health, wellbeing and financial security. They will feel confident about what they can expect from hospital staff and more fully informed about what help is available. This is also to the benefit of patients, who have the expertise of their carer informing the treatment and care they receive, and better understanding and coordination between hospital staff and families.
The practical and financial concessions often offered through the Passport (eg. hospital parking and staff canteen discounts, inclusion in refreshments on the ward) also serve as an important acknowledgement of the hardship often created when someone becomes a carer. The parking concession is now Government expectation in its guidance to NHS Trusts.
The case for staff and patient care
Carer Passports ensure our patients and their carers have a seamless journey, from admission to discharge. It creates an identify which allows carers to be part of care.’ (Deputy Director of Nursing, Lister Hospital)
‘This initiative has benefited in improved communication and access to consultants. Carers, family and friends are the experts and decision makers.’ (Divisional Chief Nurse, Medicine, Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust)
The part played by a patient’s carer on the ward can be of significant benefit to staff. For example, the carer of a patient with Alzheimer’s may be the one person who knows what food they will eat and can encourage them to eat it. Through offering flexible visiting times to carers, this can mean a patient eats their meals and doesn’t become malnourished.
While this hands-on support should not be assumed, and should not replace the input of nursing and other staff, it can be enormously beneficial to the patient. Carers report staff saying that this help relieves the pressure on them, even saving on their budget. Existing schemes have delivered measureable value to patient care and effectiveness (see In Action section).
A carer’s knowledge and experience means they can often add important information regarding the patient, including what happens when the patient is at home and the side-effects of treatment. For example, involving a carer in decisions about drug changes can be hugely beneficial in gaining an overview of the impact of past changes.
The Carer Passport is also an acknowledgement that the carer is there to support the patient while in hospital, but their role also continues when they get home. This increases the chances of a successful return home for the patient, potentially reducing hospital re-admissions.