Welcome to the August update of the Lewisham Mental Health carer forum. This forum usually runs from the Carers Lewisham centre, but is now run online in order to avoid carers risking COVID-19 and taking it home to those they are caring for.
As a reminder the forum is an engagement, educational and empowerment group for those caring for someone with a mental illness. The mental health, health and local authority services are complex, ever changing and sometimes risks non-involvement or coproduction of carers and patients. The forum is a chance for carers to know what is happening in services and who is responsible for them.
South London & maudsley have been very supportive of the carer forums for over 5 years and counting. Still not only our local mental health trust engages with the forums. It now seems the Care Quality Commission is interested in grassroots forums.
The forum runs every last Tuesday of the month from 1 pm. For August we were joined by carers from other trusts including those in Greenwich and others from Southwest London. The carers were interested in how this forum runs and what they could take away from what was explained there.
Guest speakers were the CQC and also Lewisham’s Clinical Team Leader for mental health community services.
We started off by hearing from Susan George who is an inspector for the Care Quality Commission. Her main work is in inspecting GP practices. The CQC look at how they are complying with the regulations of the health and social care act, but also to look at the quality of care.
The inspectors from CQC recently visited my Lewisham BAME Mental Health carer forum and although they wanted more information on inspecting mental health services, it would be strange to say that GP practices were not involved. There is an extra twist, because the forums are carer forums the CQC are interested in how GPs are recording and identifying carers.
So for August forum, the CQC were back to observe and engage with the forums closer than before. They are interested in becoming members.
Susan has been active for about two years and the look of the portfolio of GP practice in southeast London in Lewisham. Members are interested in the organisational structure of the CQC and what departments report to who and so on.
Susan continued by mentioning they want to improve their reporting on the quality of care provided by GPs for carers in the community. She feels there is definitely some work we can do together to try to improve the narrative in terms of how we report our findings in the area. She gave thanks to Natalie Parsons, who is a manager in the hospital’s Directorate at CQC.
The Lewisham Carers forum was also joined by SLaM’s involvement lead for Lewisham and Croydon. She also run’s the Lewisham advisory group that has raised several points for discussion with Lewisham health commissioners.
Susan mentioned that as an inspector she is particularly interested in the support that GP practices give their carers. It is vital for doctors and GP practices to identify patients who are carers, and that might include young carers as well.
She thinks it’s true to say that carers have certainly been affected by the change In the way that GPs are providing consultations, such as online consultations, and that, as an inspector, she is sort of looking closely at how access to these services change for people who may be vulnerable people with illness. This goes double for carers as well. It is a real challenge, because not everybody set up with online, facilities, internet and so on. Susan is also particularly interested as well around the space of health inequalities that have started to be talked about since COVID took hold, and particularly around the health inequalities in the BAME community. So it’s good for her to get to join your discussions in the forum.
Susan mentioned that one of the things we are trying to do is work across directorates. She feels forums like this one can help the CQC to share ideas about how they can improve and reporting on the quality of care for carers, especially when they go into GP practices, the CQC will expect to see their carer’s register. Plus the CQC will also want to see if the GPs are improving the number of carers that they’ve identified.
She thinks we do need to have more conversations within CQC. Natalie may have touched on this, and they are looking at how they can improve their our approach and methodology. So, at the moment, it’s still in the early stages. Still one of the areas has been identified on how the CQC can engage with providers to help to drive that improvement.
Questions from carer forum members
One carer was interested that the Care Act 2014 was released close to 6 years ago and feels change is not coming far enough. The carer feels that things have been going backwards due to cuts in services and local services. The carer asked Susan why are things taking so long?
Susan agreed in stating that it shouldnt have taken as long as it should. She does feel that there is real focus on it now. Its about the relationships the CQC can now build and listening to people like us and having frank conversations.
I did mention that to be fair, I do not think it’s completely the CQC’s fault, because there’s many other organizations including the local authorities. I mentioned that this forum struggles in getting a local voice because we can never find who or what is responsible for certain things.
Another carer was interested in how do the CQC capture carers feedback about the service they receive?
Susan responded that we do try to speak to people when we go on inspection and they pick up on information about how to feedback. There is also a chance to feedback on their website.
Susan mentioned that they also want GPs to publicize how carers can give feedback or leave feedback. So that we can also look at that on inspection. So the CQC will look to see whether GPs have got a system where they invite and asked feedback. If they have got posters in the waiting room, inviting carers to give feedback about the care and service they receive. The CQC can even also monitor phone calls and emails that we receive. So we’ll be looking at those quite closely.
One carer member fedback on her experiences with her GP and how she experienced qualify of care for her and who she was looking after. The carer acknowledged that we all know the mental health is the Cinderella of the NHS. So you can see how many in all these directions that things are falling on the the unpaid carer. Susan agreed that the carer made a really good point about that sort of twofold awareness of the GP needs to have. The GP practice needs to have about not only identify with carers, but how is the carer is getting on with the person they care for
Another carer agreed that the online consultation for obvious reasons, was not going to be sufficient and a lot of people don’t know how to go online. Even if their GP sent them some information, it might not be always easy to access or to understand what the GP or drugstore have liaised with.
Susan agreed with the carers comment about how the lack of mental health focus on carers literature and leaflets. One of the things the CQC like to check when we go into the practice to inspect is that there’s lots of information for carers and that’s visible and perhaps using different languages. Susan from the CQC is also going to find out if they have an analytical team at CQC that helps to provide Some data for the next forum.
I mentioned that the way I see this forum is that carers can come together as almost as an empowerment. Besides since GPs are businesses anyway. So i would be interested to have like a list of GPs to have some rating in regards to how they are responding to carers. Plus how they engaged with them and what sort of initiatives are set aside for carers.
One more carer spoke about the difficultly she had when the surgery stated that she needed to bring her ‘cared for’ into surgery. Even though she escalated it and got through the practice manager, the surgery still insisted they couldn’t do anything due to confidentiality and this led to prescription issues.
Susan stated that they’re not allowed to ignore complaints and that they need to acknowledge your complaint within probably a couple of days, and they need to investigate it. Because when a patient complains, or when somebody complains to practice, it may well be that there are elements of how they provide a service that are actually falling short, and they’re not going to improve unless they investigate.
Susan raised an example of that learning can be shared with members of staff involved, and she felt you should definitely continue to raise that complaint to the GP practice and they should acknowledge your complaint and also give you a sort of timescale about how they’re going to investigate. The CQC always encourage people to complain directly.
General Manager for mental health in communities discussion
Stephenie Edwards introduced herself to the forum as the General Manager for communities. They are in the midst of and have been for some time of actually starting to transform some of their community services. Over the years Stephenie has been attending some of the carer forums, but she is retiring now. So it will be the last time that we actually see her at the forum.
Stephenie continued that they were starting on creating pilots last year and they have been going out to service users and carers just to actually gain some views and thoughts. One of the things that was brought up was around waiting times, for both clients and carers. What they have done is that they were changing around their front end about services, particularly in that where they were splitting their services into neighborhoods. They piloted the split initially from last March 2019 for neighborhood 1, and what used to be their assessment and liaison service where people can be referred by GPS, is actually now based within the Waldren GP centre in Depford, and so their nurses are Mental Health advisors, application specialist OT, social workers based on site.
Patients also go to other GP practices and they have what’s called a very quick triage. So GPs can request a service as soon as service users couldn’t be contacted if things were urgent within 24 to 48 hours.
Stephenie stated that they started in March two weeks into their pilot, but unfortunately they were hit with what the what the whole nation is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. This disrupted their systems and all of their plans. Still to some extent we were adaptive because they created groups to run from different sites and services, but at the moment, you can’t work face to face with people in group settings over time. To in some cases, online and the OTs are trying to work out other ways of working with service users that are face to face.
It was suggested by SLaM that the team launch another pilot for neighborhood three in Lewisham. Stephenie mentioned she was excited to say that she is going to meeting after this where they will be saying whether it’s safe or not to launch, neighborhood three. She anticipats it will be safe and start launching the day after the carers forum. The team have a new staff interface, that is a challenge to the launch. So what they have found Is that Deptford which is north of the borough is very different to South of the borough of Lewisham. One of the reasons is there are different communities there that they had to get to know in terms of meeting patients, but they are going around GP surgeries and asking if they can have some space to see people on GP sites.
Stephenie made a point that lots of people in the past, potentially felt stigmatized, by coming into community mental Health teams, we would have as much as possible we can see people just coming in for services within GP practices where you know, where where we can get, I think, any available space in GP surgery premium, but that’s what we’re hoping. And, and we have expanded or we’re in the process of psychological interventions for service users.
She feels this is a big thing because service users have told them for a long time that there needs to be more psychological intervention. And she thinks as it stands at the moment, we’ve increased our psychological retention by 15 new posts, however not all the people are in those posts at the moment, but they are recruiting to run the adverts are out. So there’ll be a lot more psychological intervention available.
That might be quite short term intervention or some longer term intervention, but it will be a standard model of care. So people will be assessed when they come in. And then from that assessment, it will be decided and agreed to what care plan and what an intervention would be best at that time for that person.
Traditionally, Stephenie’s team worked primarily with care coordinators who are managed care of a number of people, maybe 25 to 30 people. What she is having trouble with is actually recruiting nurses. And that’s been ongoing for the past four or five years. The thing is they have a number of vacant posts that they haven’t been able to recruit to repay agency costs equal to a higher premium. So when they have started to look nationwide, about how they can do things differently.
Questions from the carer members
One carer member was interested on who Stephenie’s successor would be. The CQC were also interested. Stephenie stated it was someone called Wendy Dewhirst she currently works in Southwark at their acute referral center. Wendy has worked for SLaM for a long time.
Another carer gave a suggestion that because one of the major things as people with mental health is, if they know this, their benefits is going to be stopped. It doesn’t take a genius to work out and it would send them spiraling. Some of them could end up being sectioned. That’s how bad things have got. Could you please have a specialist for PiP forms within the mental health team.
Stephenie explained that Bromley, Lewisham & Greenwich MIND are employed to help on this and they work with them. She mentioned they do a lot of work around benefits and are very skilled in it. They have also got vocational support staff and a lot of service users that they work with. Vocation workers themselves are absolutely experts in benefits, but the demand is so high that they can’t do that all themselves.
The carer replied that in the past a service couldn’t get help on benefit forms and that person just gave up. She knows it’s impacting mental health survivors and she knows this is going to have a knock on effect on service users which cause their mental health to deteriorate as well. Stephenie did admit that it’s going to get bigger with service users being furloughed maybe in October not having a job to go about, but she feels that’s where their vocation specialists will do all they can to help people retain their job.
Other carers are continuing the raise the matter of carer support workers, especially some years ago 2 SLaM carer support workers were lost and now no one has any understanding of carer support numbers. Stepehenie mentioned that a new carer support worker role will be introduced and mentioned this was a drive by Lisa Brian who heads adult social care in the borough. Denise O’brien is at the point of recruiting the carer support worker and they will be working with on strategy for carers in Lewisham. These adverts are going out either imminently or going out over the next four weeks. So it’ll probably take at least two to three months before carer support worker is actually in post. I requested that the advert also be sent to the group so carers can see what role the carer support worker will be employed for.
Another carer was interested in how community mental health services in the Borough of Lewisham were taking into account diversity issues of carers. Stephenie agreed that this should be a remit for all services across the country. She continued by stating Donna Heywood Sussex who is Lewisham’s Service Director has taken BAME issues very seriously and they are in the process of producing a BAME strategy. Plus they also have Leonie Down who is Lewisham Head of Occupational Therapy and Safeguarding Adults Lead working to engage the community and also get staff involved in the BAME strategy as well. She did state its worth asking Denise O’Brien to attend the forum to speak to carers about any carers strategy, but over the 5 years it has been difficult to get any insight into carer initatives in Lewisham and carers are wondering if there is co-production at a local authority level.
It was good news that the involvement lead will try again to get Denise to attend the forum and speak to carers about any initatives and we are really hoping things will be different this time. Lastly there was an update from Jane Lyons who is the involvement lead on getting patient systems to talk to each other. These being of patient records by with SLaM EPJs and GP patient systems.
This concludes the August update of the Lewisham MH carers forum. Next month 2 mental health trusts are to send their carer support leads to educate carers about the importance of carer peer support their carer peer support strategies.