Welcome to the first Lewisham Mental Health carer forum of the year. Before I do a brief update of how the forum went, I must say thank you to Carers Lewisham for hosting the forum for almost 6 years. As a carer I often mention to fellow carers that we must support our carer centres. Without carer centers then it is harder to keep the profile of carers at local and community level. Carers need that safe space, access to activities and a place for support. I am aware that so many carer centers are struggling due to lack funds, staff and resources, but my respect for the ones that keep fighting for carers will continue.
As a reminder the Lewisham MH carer forum works to give carers a chance to find out what the mental health and social services are doing for them in the community. The Lewisham MH carer forum is carer led, which serves as a message of empowerment, I always try to make sure families and carers understand the importance of inclusion, empowerment and a chance at co-production, which should be at the heart of Health and social care.
If someone is making decisions that affects patients and their families then they must include those views, if they cannot include those views then they must present what they are doing. Failure to include, co-produce or present health and social care changes leaves the community being distrustful and avoiding to engage with services.
This is precisely why we had SLaM’s involvement lead for the boroughs of Croydon and Lewisham attend to update the members on how things are getting along for involvement. Members of course were interested on the involvement updates regarding carers.
Jane Lyon who is SLaM’s involvement lead for Lewisham and Croydon updated us on how services in the community were progressing, she unfortunately had to miss the new Lewisham Mental Health Alliance lunch in order to attend the forum, but we were glad that she sent 2 advisory group members to attend the event.
A lot of discussion centered on the Ladywell unit as we also had Eunice Adeshokan in attendance. Eunice is the modern matron for the inpatient wards at Ladywell Unit. I have known Eunice for more around 8 years or more so it will be interesting to see what developments will take place on the wards.
Eunice took the time to explain to carer members of her role and how the profile of families and carers will be raised at the MH wards. She also updated the forum of the special Carers Champion event and how carer leads on the wards across the trust are working in line with trust carers policies and strategies.
There was a discussion about SLaM PALs (a way to complain, compliment or query), since members wanted to know how carers will have the confidence to ask questions regarding the cared for. There will be work to see how staff deal with carers on the wards. One important start is that myself and another carer will visit the wards to check what is standing out for families & carers as I raised something regarding information at one of the wards.
In the meantime, I also raised the query of when the Lewisham and Croydon Staff Carer leads meeting will start up again, however we are waiting to see if staff can take on specific roles for the groups again, it could be the Lead Occupational therapists.
The second half of the Lewisham MH carers forum focuses on the NHS Trusts draft carers strategy. This is something that could not possibly be discussed at a peer support group as members need to have an interest of NHS carer engagement. It takes quite a while to get carers to have an interest of trust strategy and policies and a longer time for them to query it. The problem is the nature of NHS services can say one thing and do another.
So we are glad that South London & Maudsley is working with carers to query their strategy, because strategies can be used to hold services to account or at least let interested carers know what the Mental health NHS is doing.
I went through the 7-page strategy with carers and spoke about what carers should have a special interest in.
The following important points of the strategy were discussed
- The Care Act.
- What is the Trust’s Changing Lives Strategy, Think Family Strategy and the Trust’s Quality priorities.
- The importance of the Triangle of Care initiative.
- Understanding the MH NHS Trusts Carer’s Charter
- Using the trust’s view of what is a carer – in case someone is told that they are not a carer.
- Querying number of carers since the draft points this out as a challenge.
- The importance of diversity and how it relates to the Lewisham BAME MH carer forum priorities.
- The trusts strategy aims
- Explaining the trusts priorities
- How the trust will Increase the number of Carer Champions on wards and in community teams
- How the NHS trust will support the health and wellbeing of carers (A major challenge).
- I was glad to see in the draft that the trust is looking to go forward and register in the Triangle of Care membership scheme. This of course will take some work and will be something a trust representative can take to the regional ToC meeting to be held at Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust.
I would like to thank Carer’s Greenwich for also attending the Lewisham MH carers forum as I am working to set another carer forum for the borough of Greenwich where Oxleas MH NHS trust can engage with carers at community level.
In the meantime I have set up 2 carer led peer support groups for the borough of Greenwich in order to build a carer base.
This concludes the update for the Lewisham MH carers forum.