Lewisham MH Carers forum April 2020

133Welcome to the April update of the Lewisham Mental Health carers forum. This is one of the several forums that I run in the community aimed at carers who look after someone with a mental illness. The forum is not a support group since it focuses on carers engaging with health and social care services. I feel there is a lack of carer led forums where carers can come together and seek engagement, information, co-production and querying of health services.

Due to the COVID-19 virus, all forums have moved to online video conferencing. This forum runs every last tuesday of the month. Present at the forum where carer members, but we were joined by Oyeyemi Arogunjo who manages The Harbour Café “Based at Lewisham Hospital” in order to update members on how the crisis cafe had been progressing over the year.

We were also joined by South London & Maudsley’s inpatient matron ‘Eunice Adeshokan’ for Lewisham’s Ladywell unit to update the carers forum on how they have been engaging with families and carers whose ‘loved ones’ are currently in the mental health wards. Plus we were joined by Tama Khalk Pohwer who is their Independent Health Complaints Advocate.

As usual at the start of the forum, I always give reasons as to why I have voluntary built up the carer forum


There are of course been a few changes over the years as SLaM have been engaging heavily with the carer forums, but there are difficulties querying social care and social care leads. There have been problems tackling carer strategies borough wide as members are not sure of what plans Lewisham have for families or carers, because of the virus, i suspect it will make things even more complicated, but that will be another story for another day.

After the explanation of the carers forum, each member and pariticipant introduces themselves to the group, we were also joined by Gillian from Lewisham Community wellbeing and Staff members of Lewisham Carers who have been working very hard to engage carers in the community via online resources.

The Habour Cafe – Crisis Cafe

The invited guest speaker Oyeyemi Arogunjo from Lewisham Harbour Cafe spoke about the reasons for the Crisis Cafe. Basically the Habour Cafe is a joint partnership between Lewisham hospital, Certitude and the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. The aim of the cafe is to offer people who are feeling distressed someone to talk to in a relaxed, non-clinical setting, this especially if the patient was admitted to A&E at the hospital and is very distressed due to a MH history.

Oyeyemi Arogunjo presented the following to the Carers forum

  • Athough a non-clinical envronment, it does emphasize on therapeutic support.
  • Lewisham hospital A&E tends to bring MH patients and how others are referred to the Cafe.
  • The crisis cafe also help in sign posting and some advocacy.
  • How they liase with Care co-ordinators, housing agencies and psych liaison.
  • How long they support people, usually the minimum is 3 weeks.
  • What the Crisis cafe team consists of, usually minimum band 6 nurse and peer supporters usually from Solidarity in a Crisis.
  • Over the year the cafe has supported over 1000 residents.
  • They are looking into expanding into self referrals.

Many queries and questions came from carer attendees looking into how The Crisis Cafe will promote their services and self referral service, especially due to the diverse population of Lewisham.

Because of the COVID-19 crisis, the Harbour cafe is suspended, but services have been transferred to virtual support be it skype or phone to keep in contact with patients. Peer supporters are currently stationed at the hospital’s A&E majors and are working closely with the Psychiatric liaison services.

To find out more about The Harbour Cafe, please view the video below based off the Lewisham hospital’s YouTube site, you might even catch a glimpse of myself.

COVID-19 updates

Because of the COVID-19 situation it is only natural to update carer members on how the corona virus is affecting the vulnerable around the country. People are fairly well aware on how the front line NHS workers, shop assistants and delivery network are supporting the country during this crisis and they are all heros, but since this is a carers forum it is important attention to be raised on how the virus is affecting families and carers.

I showed members an interview from BBC News featuring Carers UK CEO Helen Walker on how the COVID-19 crisis was affecting carers in the UK. There was an interesting debate from the forum about the interview.

We also discussed how councils will move towards the Covid-19 emergency law and how it will affect social care. I showed members and article about the current situation, shown below.

Councils move to ditch adult social care duties

Next we discussed a survey from Carers UK regarding carers being close to burnout, which will probably be made worse if auterity measures kick in again due to the impact on the economy from the Corona Virus.

Unpaid carers close to burnout, charity claims

There were 2 more updates on how Scotland is managing to provide unpaid carers with PPE Kits and the new campaign from Carers UK “Caring Behind Closed Doors”, which calls upon the government to :-

  • Raise awareness and recognition of unpaid carers.
  • Increase the level of Carer’s Allowance.
  • Increase the availability and delivery of testing and PPE to paid care workers and carers.
  • Make care a priority.

You can read more about the campaign below..

Caring Behind Closed Doors Campaign

The next part of the forum focused on Social prescribing, which is a new initiative from the NHS. This looks at how patients especially older aged can link into the community rather than being prescribed medication for everything. Social prescribing can be beneficial for carers, but there needs to be a coordinated network between the link workers and GP surgeries.

social prescribing

The forum moved onto engagement and co-production from Lewisham and Greenwich hospital Trust, although the lead could not make the forum that day and will attend in May. It is vital the forums make links with Acute hospitals due to several reasons, one being that MH Patients suffer physical health problems as well as Mental health. Another reason is acute NHS trusts are working very hard to identify, engage and involve carers especially Kings College hospital and Guys & St Thomas Hospital regarding my other carer forums.

The rest of the forum were updates from SLaM’s Croydon and Lewisham involvement lead and an update from Ladywell wards Modern Matron on how they are engaging families and carers. Members are interested on infection rates at the wards and are keen to hear how SLaM quality Improvement will adapt to the strain on services.

lewisham ladywell unit - carers forum update

Lastly we got updates from Carers Lewisham on how virtual groups were runing, there were also updates from Gillian of Lewisham Community wellbeing regarding grants for carers shown below.


This concludes the April update for the Lewisham MH Carers forum.