Author Archives: mmckenz11

About mmckenz11

IT Officer for London School of Osteopathy and a Carer representative for Maudsley. As you can see, I have many interests shown off my blog. I hope to keep it updated with posts and more things to come soon.

Caring through the CoronaVirus

Corona VirusThanks for dropping by my carers blog post. This site raises awareness of unpaid carers and mental health. As of this blog post I am caring for someone close and just coping the best I can, while keeping a close eye on events. As of the title, this blog post is about the Corona virus and its implication to carers like myself and those in the community.

If you have been following my tweets on twitter, I have been posting that carers need to take care of themselves. Sometimes I have done a blog post about carer wellbeing and sometimes I will do a video blog or podcast.

Feel free to listen to a podcast on looking after yourself as a carer.


For carer health and wellbeing, it is now a vital challenge that carers must take care during the corona virus, not just for their own health, but also for those who they are caring for be it someone with Mental illness, physical health problems or an older adult.

A brief about the CoronaVirus

If you are still unsure what all the fuss is about. What is the Corona Virus or COVID-19?

The Coronavirus is a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. It has spread all around the world causing many to become unwell and causing many deaths. You might think that the corona virus is just a health risk, but it is much more than that as it poses an extreme challenge to the economy, functioning of society, trust in others and the community. The corona virus unfortunately has hit via a perfect storm of the flu season where the vulnerable are most at risk.

Still it is not all bad news as if you have a strong immune system or are under 60, most people recover depending on the symptoms. The big problem is carers are caring for those who are usually in the other category and it is a big concern for many carers across the globe. Many in the UK are concerned how governments are fighting the virus, especially in the UK

Carer concerns

Focusing on the UK at the time of this blog post. The government is moving from the ‘Contain phase’ to the ‘Delay phase’ due to the number of Corona virus cases appearing in the country. From what I understand, many experts feel the virus cannot be stopped anymore and that we must now slow the spread of the virus. If a person becomes infected, when they isolate themselves and recover, they become immune to the virus and thus cannot spread the virus to others in the community.

Blood pressure measuring

The aim of the strategy called ‘herd Immunity’ is that eventually much of the population will be immune to the virus. There are big gains with this strategy as the nature of the virus can behave this way, but there are also big risks and gambles. For ‘Herd Immunity’ to work, means that the virus needs to target those who can easily recover and thus the vulnerable can be kept safe. The other aim is to reduce pressure on the health services so those who can recover just isolate themselves while the vulnerable can use the health services.

When many unpaid carers heard the statement from the government about slowing the spread of the virus, there were many concerns because not one carer would want to be infected and bring the infection to those who they are caring for, because it could be a death sentence for the caree.

Many carers would prefer more emphasis on the government to focus on stopping the virus on spreading, but again there is a trade off because that could mean disruption of services, closing schools, lock downs and disruptions across the board. All this of course probably will come about, but the government would want disruption to be minimal, but at what cost?

What is happening for carers during the epidemic

Carers Trust and Carers UK both national charities campaigning for carers also have concerns and have issued a joint statement. From what I understand, the core of the statement is that Carers will come under severe pressure from the current climate. As if unpaid carers were not struggling already.

The Joint statement is aimed at Carers and also those who make important decisions regarding health and social care.

From the joint statement, the information that i focused on was the importance that Services must be in place for the following situations especially during the epidemic.

Other important concerns raised by the joint statement is about The role of mental health services. Please read the joint statement below.

https://www.carersuk.org/images/News_and_campaigns/Coronavirus/Covid-19_Joint_Statement_one.pdf

My views on the current challenges for carers

As if carers were not struggling enough already, even more will be asked of them. The whole situation is not even any carers fault as they are only doing what the community asks of them. To provide care and support for those close to them.

Never before have carers needed to focus on their own health needs because the ‘cared for’ will unfortunately suffer due to health and social services will come under more strain.

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The current climate will test communities to their limit and will cause major heartbreak and unfortunately many will lose their loved ones to the virus.

As a carer, I will do my best to let other carers know about their duties, but no more will it be just about caring, but understanding what the virus is and how it will change things. It will request carers understand what has changed in health services, using your voice as a carer to request support needs. Of course I will continue to run my forums remotely and network with carers who become isolated.

Us carers must come together, be counted and look out not only for who we care for, but also other carers. The challenges are only just beginning and it will be a long one.

To follow up on understanding the virus and what you need to do.  Please check out the following sites.

NHS -Coronavirus (COVID-19) Overview

Coronavirus (COVID-19): UK government response

Good luck on your caring Journey

Lewisham BAME MH Carer Forum February 2020

IMG_20200228_095949Welcome to the February update of the Lewisham BAME Mental Health carers forum. The forum is aimed at black Afo-Caribbean, Asian and other minorities carers in the borough of Lewisham, however I am happy for other carers in surrounding boroughs to attend. The forum is run from Bromley, Lewisham and Greenwich Mind centre under the arm of Community Wellbeing.

The forum is more educational and allows carers to discuss with mental health service providers any queries about services. A high majority of the BAME community use mental health services and some of the issues are specific regarding race, culture and even language. The issues are complex and deep, but discussions, forming relationships, education and working together is the way forward.

For the February forum we were blessed to have an outreach ad support service engage with the forum. The service was called OASIS and they kindly provided a workshop for the members of the forum. OASIS is a mental health service for young people (14-35 years old), living in the London boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham and Croydon. They provide support for up to two years, for people struggling with experiences like hearing voices or feeling paranoid.

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OASIS ran a workshop for the forum, which was on ‘Psychosis and Unusual Experiences’. Many members of the forum in the past often asked for more education on psychosis. The members wondered how Psychosis affects the person they care for. So I was really glad that OASIS stepped in and provided a lovely workshop for us.

I was amazed to see that OASIS came along with a patient to tell her story, which I thought was inspiring and left a great impression on me. It showed there is always hope no matter how difficult things became.

Back to the presentation and workshop. OASIS talked us through how broad the definition of Psychosis really is, but they broke down that term into a number of factors.

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The presentation looked at how sufferers could get

  • Confusion and changes in thoughts
  • Hallucinations
  • Changes in speech
  • Loss of motivation
  • Feeling like something controlling them
  • Experiencing upsetting thoughts
  • Paranoid thoughts and ideas
  • Deterioration in physical health
  • and a lot more.

This is not to say those who experience psychosis had all of the symptoms, but they are common among those affected by psychosis.

The presentation moved on to explaining the Early warning signs. This part of the presentation was so vital for carers as not all carers are alert to when someone if beginning to relapse or fall unwell.

Some of the signs were.

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Mood swings
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Appetite changes
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Withdrawal

Again, its not like the person experience all the signs, but maybe some occur when the person becomes unwell. These early signs then eventually change to more difficult experiences shown below

  • Changes in perception – seeing/hearing things
  • Paranoid or suspicious thoughts
  • Unusual thoughts
  • High sense of threat
  • Change in behaviour and functioning

So eventually the above then leads to full blown psychosis. I was amazed how well the group explained things so easy and I wished more members turned up to view the talk.

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It was not always talking to the forum, we also did some fun quizzes to test our knowledge. Then we heard from the service user experiences. There was many thought provoking questions from the forum members which centered on cultural awareness and understand, but I still feel that the BAME community must also make steps to engage with services and not wait till someone becomes so unwell that they is no choice but to provide MH care.

No one likes things being done to them, so there must be some focus on what services we can use before we get into a situation where services are forced on us.

More information on OASIS can be found from their website which is https://www.meandmymind.nhs.uk/

I have decided to advertise the event off eventbrite as well as getting support from SLaM to place up posters on their wards and out in the community. I cannot thank SLaM enough for being very supportive of the forum and continuing to engage with the BAME community.

For those who may not know, the Oxleas, SLaM and SWLSTG Mental Health trusts are working heavily with the community to update what they are doing for their BAME staff. I am glad the services is using this forum to engage with the community since diverse communities often query about staff and not always the service themselves.

To book for March forum, the link is below.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/lewisham-bame-mental-health-carers-forum-tickets-6270105053

This concludes the update for the February Lewisham BAME MH carers forum

Lambeth MH Carers Forum update February 2020

20140710_143445Here is the update from the Lambeth Mental Health carers forum. The forum is run over at Brixton 336 building hosted by Lambeth Carers Hub.

Carers’ Hub Lambeth is an independent local charity based in Brixton. They offer advice, information, emotional support, signposting, peer support groups and events to unpaid carers of Lambeth. I often attend their MH carers support groups. Without Lambeth carers hub, many carers in the borough would feel isolated, abandoned and having to cope through a crisis.

The Lambeth MH carers forum aim is to bring Mental Health carers together to inform, educate, offer some form of empowerment in their role to engage with health and social care services.

The main agenda for February was engagement due to worrying concerns about the closure of Lambeth hospital. Some carers are fine that some action will be taken by SLaM (South London & Maudsley), because they feel some wards on the hospital are not fit for purpose. Other carers are not sure what is going on and are happy to attend in order to be informed and feel part of the discussion.

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Some carers from the Southwark area are worried development will further reduce needed space to access services. There are many reasons why unpaid carers need some form of engagement, so we hope the forum can offer some dedicated insight that SLaM takes the views of families and carers seriously.

We had hoped the Service director for Lambeth Hospital would be free to engage with us, but he was unable to make it, although members had a very lengthy and informative discussion about the consultation process regarding Lambeth hospital.

The forum also is awaiting a visit from Kings college hospital NHS trust MH lead regarding the trusts Mental Health Strategy. I have noticed many Acute NHS trusts developing mental health strategies, but members are worrying if there is consultation with carers in the boroughs regarding established forums and groups.

Gavin Smith the MH lead for Kings College hospital could not make both carer forums, but he did manage to attend the Southwark MH carer forum the next day, which was brilliant and showed how much dedication he has in putting mental health at the heart of the NHS trust. I will report the Southwark MH carers forum update soon.

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The Lambeth MH carers forum was kindly co-chaired by myself and another carer who is learning more about the NHS, mental health services and the obligation of social care services. She presented the minutes from the last forum very well.

The carers forum discussed carer awareness at GP centers in the borough of Lambeth and if carer registers are kept up to date, or even if GP surgeries have them, we hope there is engagement from Lambeth Carers Hub towards GP practices in Lambeth.

We also discussed the mental health strategy from Guys and St Thomas NHS Trust as that trust is very busy linking with both the Lambeth and Southwark MH carer forums. There has been some great news as both trusts are inviting carers to involvement in order to raise carer voices even more. I am very impressed with both Kings and GSTT NHS trusts as they have made it clear to work in partnership with the community.

Both NHS trusts MH strategies and Carer strategies will take some reading, but at least there is some way to hold the trusts to account as members get worried if no plan of action is in place or if there are no policies.

Guys and St Thomas NHS Trust are back again over at the Southwark MH carers forum later this year. The forum also discussed updates on Lambeth Healthwatch questionnaire, which I believe is still in development.

I also updated the forum on my plans for the other forums I do and hope other carers have a chance to get educated on the complex system of MH care, health care along with the duties of social care. Plus I updated the forum on CarersUK developments with their new ‘Learning for living’ app and their ‘State of care’ Survey.

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This concludes the February update for the Lambeth MH carers forum.

Lewisham MH Carers forum February 2020

133Hello fellow reader. Welcome to the February edition of the Lewisham Mental Health carers forum. Each of the 4 MH carer forums I run focus on mental health service engagement for MH carers. The forums also seek engagement, updates and involvement from other parties, but usually mental health services come first.

For the Lewisham forum with thanks to SLaM’s public and patient engagement lead for Lewisham & Croydon, we were delighted to have in attendance SLaM’s Lewisham Quality Improvement clinical Nurse.

I also presented the new Carers UK online application to the members and shared this on our Carers Whatsapp group.  If you are a carer and are interested in boosting your skills.  Please check out the following link.

https://www.learning4living.org/login/index.php

I also shared the Carers UK State of Caring online Survey, which you can also fill out below

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/C8KH7CY

Going back to SLaM QI  I can almost hear the following.

What is Quality Improvement I hear you ask?

There has been a drive at mental health trusts to strengthen services through quality engagement and indicators. The quality improvement drive has unfortunately come from reports due to serious incidents in the past, but it has led to action and families and carers need to know more about NHS Trusts QI.

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Emma Jones who is the SLaM QI clinical Nurse spoke to us about the importance of QI. She spoke about the recent visit from NHS England querying the trust on involvement and co-production. From what I remember, SLaM were good in some areas, but struggled in others. Emma admitted there was still a long way to go.

We were shown a video which can be viewed below.

I felt the video was very good and certainly set the agenda for a good discussion.

The forum felt more carers need to be involved on SLaM’s carers register and more carers need to be involved on SLaM’s projects. The Lewisham MH forum await the focus groups QI are planning. There was a lot of discussion on SLAM’s changing lives strategy.

The core components of the Strategy are

  • Quality – SLaM will get the basics right in every contact and keep improving what matters to services users.
  • Partnership – SLaM will work together with service users, their support networks and whole populations to realise their potential.
  • A great place to work – SLaM will value, support and develop our leaders, managers and staff.
  • Innovation – SLaM will strive to be at the forefront of what is possible, exploiting our unique strengths in research and development, with everyone involved and learning.
  • Value – SLaM will make the best use of our assets, resources, relationships and reputation to support best quality outcomes.

The forum fed back on if the changing lives strategy has a space for carers and was not keen on the word ‘support networks’, although they agreed the word could stay, but certainly wanted the word ‘family and carer’ to be added. The view is even carers are also users of services not as patients but what SLaM can provide.

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There were also talk about other words as in the word ‘Huddle’, which is an american term for taking action and planning strategy instead of consulting.

There was more discussion on Carer & Service User Involvement in QI

Where the forum was presented on how SLaM QI in Lewisham or overall were engaging with those off the Involvement Register. The following was presented.

  • How the Inpatient Care process Model works – A Lewisham Pilot.
  • How each acute ward eventually had a 1 hour group every 2 weeks.
  • How to get patient involvement/feedback.
  • Positive & constructive Feedback from persons supporting group.
  • Pointing out that patients change ideas do make a difference.
  • How patients feel listened to, more informed of what to expect & given feedback from actions.
  • Moving Forward: Each Ward to take ownership of group with IR.

Again the forum pressed QI for carer focus and involvement, however the good thing is that SLaM QI were there to listen. Near the end of the talk, the forum discussed SLaM’s patient discharge follow up regarding SLaM’s suicide policy and touched on the QI projects each ward was working on. A lot of projects were focused on patiet flow, but some looked at the patient and carer experience.

All in all, I was happy that Emma from Lewisham SLaM QI attended, even though she was pregnant I felt this showed dedication to her role and set an example to engaging with carers. I shared the forum notes with carer members to 2 other forums in the hope those members can query Quality Improvement in other SLaM boroughs.

Next up was Carers Lewisham new support worker who has a vast amount of Mental Health knowledge.  He updated the forum on some new groups that Carers Lewisham is running and we look forward to working with him and Carers Lewisham.

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This concludes the update for February Lewisham MH carers forum.

Learning for living – A way for carers to gain skills.

matDid you know that there are around 7 million carers in the UK? Give or take many more hidden carers? Did you also know that around 1 in 5 carers leave their job to care and many more carers provide care for so long it is harder to get back into employment. Carers across the UK save over £150 billion for the economy and even if it was not about the costs, then it is certainly about valuing what carers do.

Often when I hear from unpaid carers, they tell me how difficult it is to develop skills for the future. Just the look off a carer’s face shows me and that their confidence is gone.

By the Way, I have done a Vlog on this.  You can view the video below.

It is not like they want to just leave the person they are caring for in order to work again, but there is a nagging feeling that carers are being forgotten in education and being unable to attempt a future for themselves.

Giving help

It is understandable that many carers worry about what will happen when they become a former carers. They worry that they have given so much time and dedication to that special person, that they have neglected developing skills for themselves.

I would like to mention it is not like no one is trying to help, there are often activities, advice and skill sessions from carer centers. I would like to praise those giving much of their time and energy to help carers find those skills and confidence to access work, but the pressure is still there.

Carers want to find skills for work that relates to their values. Carers want to be welcomed into a job market that understands the attributes of dedication, serving others, being there and a willingness to continue learning.

It just so happens that Carers UK (A leading national charity giving carers a voice) have been looking into how carers can develop confidence and skills that ca help with employment.

Carers UK understands the stigma faced by many carers who feel they are locked out of education and looked down upon because they are not doing what every other person is doing….that 9 to 5 job.

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The situation is that carers work all sorts of hours and carers would love a chance to develop more skills, but unpaid carers need the tools to help them access such skills.

A couple of days ago I tested an online application that teaches carers about developing learning skills, which can give more confidence to many carers seeking a way to make a future for themselves.

The online application is simple and easy to use. It does not take a moment to register and then you are on your way. The online application is called ‘Learning for Living‘ and I really hope carers understand the importance that there is life after caring, or even during caring.

If there is anything I can take from the application is its flexibility as you can come back to the application any time and it does not have to be done in one sitting. The application is well thought out and delves deep into the virtues of caring and relates  caring into developing skills.

You should be able to access the ‘Learning for living’ application below.

https://www.learning4living.org/

Some carers do not even think they have skills due to their caring role, but all that needs to happen are tools that explain to carers that they already can developed skills and it just needs to be awakened.

There is no escape, carers have to engage with technology and the UK seeks to develop its technology infrastructure more.  Us carers cannot be left behind and using such applications is certainly the future.

As a working carer, I was invited to Carers UK HQ and submit my views of the application The discussion raised several interesting aspects among carers and representatives and it was excellent to see Minister for Care Caroline Dinenage attend, debate and listen to carers views.   I admired her compassion and determination to support the developments for unpaid carers.  

We all agreed carers have something to offer and even more to gain, even though carers have been giving so much all their lives.

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‘Learning for living’ gives carers that chance, we cannot sit back and hope opportunity comes our way, us carers need to take the chance and develop the confidence, understand our value and challenge the future.

Us carers have given so much to society, something that should be valued and treasured, it is about time we get to live for ourselves, its not selfish is it?

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Thank you for Carers who attended and Carers UK working hard to not only get carers that voice, but also the skills and a future.

Good luck on your caring journey.

Lewisham BAME MH Carer Forum January 2020

enteranceWelcome to the January update of the Lewisham BAME Mental Health Carer forum. This is one of the 4 carer forums I use to help engagement between unpaid carers and mental health or even health services. I feel if patients and their families are at the heart of health services, then there should be some form of engagement, involvement and influence.   The forum is run from one of the Bromley, Lewisham and Greenwich MIND offices with support from Community wellbeing.

The Lewisham BAME Mental Health carer forum is fairly unique since its aim is to generate understand of mental health pressures on Black and Minority population in Lewisham and sometimes in other boroughs. Since afro-caribbean are high end users of the mental health services, the forum helps in understanding some of the issues.

We hope the forum can shed light on the following.

  • Education regarding mental health in the BAME population
  • Reducing stigma from both psychology, psychiatry and from families and carers
  • Working on culture and diversity and trying to understand that in partnership with our local mental health trust.
  • Raise the profile of BAME families and carers in the mental health system.

The are more points the forum tries to cover, but that can be for another day. I would like to mention BAME issues are some of the most complex and challenging aspects in mental health, so even then a forum cannot possibly solve those issues, but it can provide a platform of understanding, providing compliments if things are working (and some things do work) or querying if health or MH services are failing families and carers. The forum is particularly interested in what consultations or involvements are taking place in the borough.

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For the January forum Isabelle Ekdawi SLaM’s Trust Advisor for Family Therapy presented to us about Open Dialouge and Trauma Informed care. I was very greatful Isabelle took time out to engage with the members and the BAME community.

To touch a bit more about Open Dialouge.

It is a form of therapy that includes patient, clinician and carer, with less emphasis on the medical model and treating those who use the services as equals.

As far as I can remember Open Dialouge has 3 or more aspects to it, being

  • Philosophical and ethical approach to distress
  • Psychosis seen as response to difficult life situations
  • Avoiding the ‘them and us’ relationship and using just ‘us’
  • A Way of organizing services (which can be a challenge
  • Community based services, networks engaged from beginning, ‘open’ decision making.
  • Use of particular type of therapeutic conversations

Isabelle mentioned some NHS Mental Health Trusts are using Open Dialouge in their services, one of them being North East London Foundation Trust. Off NELFT’s website it explains “Open Dialogue is a model of mental health care which involves a consistent family and social network approach where all treatment is carried out via a whole system/network meetings, which always include the patient”.

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There has been much criticisms of the recent medical model for mental health where there has been a lack of psycho-therapy and too much emphasis on medication. The outcomes for the patient can be very poor and thus more beds are often needed as patients fall through the system time and time again. Open Dialogue aims to challenge such outcomes, but it all starts with education.

Isabelle explained the Overview of the service model to the forum.

  • Treatment team at the time of crisis
  • No separate professionals meetings
  • Planning together becomes the treatment
  • Different voices and dialogues coming into conversation
  • Feed into other treatments – such as individual therapy, social work, family therapy

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There was lengthy discussions on the method, but if anyone is interested they can check out the links below for more information.

http://www.opendialogicalpractices.eu
http://podbulletin.com/
http://www.developingopendialogue.com

The Lewisham BAME carers forum was also joined by Juliana Onwumere who does research over at the Institute of Psychology, psychiatry and Neuroscience, she is a senior lecturer and is very inclusive when it comes to families and carers. She wanted to speak to the group about carer related research that might be of interest.

Each member of the forum gave their opinions, but for me. I feel if we can collate some of the major research done from the past couple of years on families and carers, that would be a good start. Which is why I joined researchgate.net and checked out past research papers. My particular interest is how far did the Care Act 2014 affect carers

If anyone wants to see a list of research papers done on carers, here is the link below.

https://www.researchgate.net/search.Search.html?type=project&query=carers

Please join research gate and contact the researcher to get such papers. I am not a research myself, but I do value research and how it uses evidence to initate change, no one can deny evidence and it can be a strong tool to pressure services or at least get services to understand someone point of view. It was that reasons why I engaged with IOPPN and I am hoping they do a lot more regarding families and carers. I am aware research can stall often, but it is worth doing if it can help in change.

Lastly we had updates from Juliana Frederick-james who is the Community Development Services Manager for Oxleas MH Trust. I have to put a lot of praise on Oxleas for engaging with both the Lewisham Carers forum and also the Lewisham BAME carers forum.

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I am aware Oxleas MH NHS trust covers the boroughs of Bexley, Greenwich and Bromley, but Oxleas often try to support engaged carers especially at groups and forums.  I have been impressed with Oxleas so far, although there is always work to do.

Juliana updated us on how Oxleas is looking to track carer groups and engagement forums, I am hoping that Oxleas engages with BAME projects and one of the comes from the Royal College of Nursing in regards to BAME staff development.

All this is integrated from the South London Partnership, which includes South London & Maudsley and also South West London & St Georges NHS Trust.

I feel BAME projects should not just only come from queries of families and carers but should look into the impact of BAME Mental Health staff and how they relate to diverse communities.

This concludes the January update for the Lewisham BAME MH Carers forum.

Lewisham MH Carers forum January 2020

133Welcome 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.

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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.

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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.