HSJ Award Ceremony 2019

HSJWelcome and thanks for stopping by. This website aims to raise awareness of unpaid carers, like myself and also raise awareness of mental health. Hence the title of the site “A Caring Mind”. Recently I attended the exciting and prestigious HSJ award ceremony. I wanted to blog a fair bit of my experience there, especially from a carer’s perspective. Before I continue with my view of the ceremony, which was excellent, I want to mention a bit about HSJ Awards and its aim.

A bit of background on HSJ Awards

The HSJ Awards have been celebrating healthcare excellence for 39 years through huge political, technological and financial challenges within the sector. They have many partners, which are The Department of Health & Social carer, their leading partner Geometric Results INC, Lloyds Pharmacy, NHS Employers, Ministry of Defense, NHS England, Freedom to Speak up, NHS Charities together and many more.

Sorry I forgot to mention HSJ stands for Health Service Journal. The Health Service Journal is a news service which covers the National Health Service, healthcare management and health care policy. So you can tell what HSJ covers in regards to health is of major importance.

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The HSJ awards focused on several categories on that night to celebrate the hard work, innovation and dedication across the Health and Social care field.

The categories up for awards I have listed below.

Acute or Specialist Service Redesign Initiative Award
Acute or Specialist Trust of the Year
Acute Sector Innovation of the Year
Clinical Leader of the Year
Community or Primary Care Service Redesign
Connecting Services and Information Award
Driving Efficiency Through Technology Award
Freedom to Speak Up Organisation of the Year
Health and Local Government Partnership Award
HSJ Partnership of the Year
Mental Health Innovation of the Year
Mental Health Provider of the Year
Military and Civilian Health Partnership Award
Patient Safety Award
Primary Care Innovation of the Year
Reservist Support Initiative Award
Staff Engagement Award
System Leadership Initiative of the Year
System Led Support for Carers Award
Workforce Initiative of the Year

As you can tell, from the categories the awards reflected excellence on health services across the country.

My experience at the HSJ ceremony

The HSJ 2019 award ceremony took place at Evolution London, which was once known as Battersea Evolution. The building is massive and has seating up to 2,000 for dinners, I think i does hundreds of ceremonies a year as in conferences, exhibitions, award ceremonies and much more.

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You can find out more about the venue below.

https://batterseaevolution.co.uk/about/

If I was to sum up the ceremony, I felt most welcomed by everyone from experience of care team from NHS England, Carers UK and Carers Trust. They were all so important in the role that they do, even though they probably would be very humble about it. I felt honored to be there.

The food was excellent, the venue staff was very polite and the HSJ team especially Zara was fantastic. I was shocked they managed to get hold of actor James Nesbitt OBE to host the ceremony and I did not expect him to come out singing, James was very professional throughout the ceremony, because there was so many award categories to go through.

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I was also impressed he wore the #NHSThinkCarer band and actually spoke about it at the ceremony.

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Whats it means to a carer when a region wins that award

Going back to the HSJ Awards, I was fortunate enough to be one of the Judges for the Award category on “System Led Support for Carers Award”. I must admit judging the awards was fun, but challenging since the entries were very good, but to be honest my main drive for this blog is what does it mean for carer when a service wins such an award?

I did not really want to just do a description of the award event, I think anyone reading this especially healthcare providers should be interested on my thoughts. I think I wasn’t brought in to judge the entries because I am just a carer, I spend a lot of time engaging with mental health trusts, councils and CCG’s on carer welfare, policies and practices. I am sure some of them are fed up of me poking my nose into their business. Yet my focus is always on the unpaid carers where I am practically covering South London and expanding quickly.

If you look at my website you can see I have been raising awareness from 2014, but even before then I was involved raising awareness of unpaid carers. Its like I have nothing better to do but network carers together and speak as one.

My view on the system led support for Carers award is that it is a challenge to other systems to engages with unpaid carers. Any part of England’s health and social care field focusing on carers should not be a tick-box exercise.

I want to remind unpaid carers to take time and examine why West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership won that award. You can view the Case study in the link below.

https://www.hsj.co.uk/7026205.article

As a carer and an HSJ carer judge, I could not help but compare the entries to local or nearby carer focused systems. I had learnt a large amount of what works for carers and why.

I want to raise this to other unpaid carers that I network with as so to help educate unpaid them of the importance of awarding systems that involve and focus on unpaid carers to the highest standard.

My view is that West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership has thrown down the gauntlet for others to either follow or compete against, but it is not enough for local authorities to do this by following examples from winners. We need unpaid carers to also engage with local authorities and ask…what are you doing for us?

We need unpaid carers to be green with envy when they see how other unpaid carers are supported from HSJ winners and those that entered for that category. It might seem hard asking for carers to poke their noses into Local authority affairs, but why not?

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Does the Local authority seek to involve carers into their systems? Why are some Integrated care systems so quiet? What are they doing and who is leading them? How are carers identified in your area? Are you involved when it comes to Carer engagement? I think carers should find out who or what is running their carers programme and if it is either run of the mill or seeking to make an impact in unpaid carers lives.

The future

I want to see more entries in 2020 HSJ Awards for the carer category, just because pushing for unpaid carer welfare can be challenging, does not mean no one can do it.

I am sure some where out there, there is a region in England that has been quiet on carer engagement for too long and should not be hiding. I think those that entered for the award were all winners in my book and set the standard for others to follow.

Conclusion

I would like to thank everyone who has involved me so far and from my observation they all have unpaid carers at the heart of what they do. If the NHS was to fall over (god forbid), they still would be fighting hard for unpaid carer recognition.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope I have not offended anyone apart from councils or districts who stay quiet on carers.

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Carer traits and characteristics

Finger art of a Happy couple. The concept of couple laughing.Welcome back, Its not long until “Carers Rights day”, which takes place on the 21st of November. I am sure to do a blog and maybe a video about it, but still it is a couple of weeks away, but keep a look out for local carer events in the meantime. This particular blog is on carer character traits.

Basically when people think about unpaid carers, they often think that the person is just caring for someone. In a way there are correct, but delve a little deeper and they could be off target. There is a whole lot more to a carers world than what people might think.

So I have decided to list and briefly explain some unpaid character traits, this blog is aimed not only at health professionals, but carers themselves who might wish to understand what they might find helpful on their carers journey.

Please take take note, not all unpaid carers are the same and due to trying to keep the blog post short, I have missed out a lot of carer character traits and skills.

Providing a simple hug.

Not all carers do this, it really depends on the relationship with the ‘cared for’. Some unpaid carers are very close to the person suffering either mental or physical ill health, but giving a simple hug to that person can help more than any words can say.

Authenticity

Just caring for someone shows that you are wearing the badge, you are wearing the carer’s badge and no one can say you have not been there. If asked to speak about your carers journey, then you will understand. An unpaid carers journey can be difficult, full of tension and a roller coaster ride. As a carer you can expect to take some massive blows, but at the same time you are growing stronger in your cause.

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Being a shoulder to cry on (very difficult)

Not always easy especially if the ‘cared for’ is distant from you, but as a carer you can always be there as a shoulder to cry on. There will be times that the ‘cared for’ will be let down by everyone, be it friends, health systems and so on. If you are close to the ‘cared for’, just being a carer will give them the opportunity to be the last person they can cry to.

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Being Present (most important!!)

The most important trait of an unpaid carer. There are only a few other ways to care, but being there is the ultimate role of a carer. Some people have big families, but not everyone in that family is going to equally care for the ‘cared for’. Sometimes the carer is the one who will sacrifice or put on hold their life to provide that much needed support. A carer will be there at hospital appointments, doctors appointments, care plan assessments, benefit assessments, they will provide medication or chase things up and more. Being there for the ‘cared for’ is what it takes to be a carer.

Being there when times are tough (difficult)

Being there is NOT enough, its when the chips are down that the true worth of being a carer is on the line. Its no good providing support when the crisis is over, but I am aware that carers cannot be around the person all the time. I am also aware that it is not a criticism of carers who tried so hard, but were pushed away, especially mental health carers. Still, there will be times when the impossible may be asked of you, as a carer you will need to be there especially when there is a crisis.

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Believing

There are not many rule books on being a carer, there has been times when I am thinking to myself am I doing the right thing, because no one can really tell you that you are living your life the best way. There were times my ‘cared for’ hit crisis after crisis and I was banging my head against a brick way with all the bureaucracy, confidentiality and red tape. I was even dealing with bullying from NHS staff siding with the ‘cared for’s’ criticism of me and to be frank, I was on my own. The keyword is ‘Belief’, you as a carer might have to dig down and start believing in yourself. What are you caring for? What are you fighting for? What are the costs? The sacrifices? Is it all your fault? Sometimes only you can answer those questions.

Compassion

Very close to being there as a carer, you will need to show compassion, patience and to be kind. It is not easy to do if you are under stress or constant pressure, being compassionate can even extend to others if you practice being compassionate to the person you care for. If you lack compassion, then you could do damage to the relationship.

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Confidentiality (Can be very difficult)

Sometimes carers have to be confidential about who they care for, but most times a carer will have to deal with confidentiality. It is frustrating because in the end it will be you that providing the carer and support, but how can you do your role if no one is saying what to expect for the ‘cared for’. Its like they are saying ‘Just get on with it’, when the patient is discharged into your care. I have noticed a culture where health professionals state the ‘cared for’ is discharged to the social worker’s care or the care coordinator’s care, but what happens they move on from their jobs or leave? The carer is the constant person in that role and should never be pushed aside or forgotten. Learn how confidentiality works, especially when Carer’s Rights Day takes place on the 21st of November.

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Connection

Being a connection to someone is not easy at all. It depends how close you are to the ‘cared for’. Sometimes a carer is just a person in name and role, but being a connection to someone is highly psychology. There are whole books on the subject on connecting to others and the subject is also one of the ‘5 ways of wellbeing’.

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/improve-mental-wellbeing/

It is not always easy connecting to someone who is unwell, but it can benefit yourself as well as the ‘cared for’.

Empathy

Similar to compassion, Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what the ‘cared for’ is experiencing. This is why many carers try hard to work out what the situation is, so that they can provide adequate support and care. Without empathy then you are making guess work, but sometimes it is not always the carers fault. If unpaid carers are pushed out due to confidentiality or not involved, it is difficult to understand what the person is going through, especially if its mental health. Remember, if the health professional is not always present and the ‘cared for’ is very unwell, then it is usually up to the unpaid carer be it friend, neighbour or relation.

Helping (knowing when to help and how)

Sometimes caring is a grey area, there is more to caring than just helping with physical or mental health support. It is also being around to help, this might be arranging meetings, advocating, helping the health professional, helping with money situations and so on.

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Hope (Very common among carers)

Without this trait, you might even want to give up on caring for someone, there should be some form of hope that the ‘cared for’ will recover or at least live with the illness. Sometimes unfortunately there is no recovery, so all you can hope for is to be a witness to the person’s suffering, but deep down inside all unpaid carers hope for some change.

Love (most common thing among carers)

Another common trait with all unpaid carers. You care because you love the person or are emotionally tied to them. Love is a vague word, but without some form of love, it is difficult to care for someone let alone care for anything. Sometimes people overlook the love between carer and ‘cared for’, but it is there. Even if the carer had to walk away from their role, this still could be done out of love and when things really go wrong, then love hurts.

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Loyalty

Very difficult for carers to do, but being loyal to the ‘cared for’ can be an important trait, but what happens when the ‘cared for’ refuses help? When does the question of being loyal become a risk? This is when carers need to break confidentiality and raise the issue if the ‘cared for’ is at severe risk. E.g. reporting to the doctor, social worker or another professional.

Open and loving friends

Not really a carer trait, but something a carer would find helpful. Unfortunately, friends tend to go off packing when having to deal with a carer fighting something depressing. It does not help that carers due to their role will lack a social life, so it is harder to make new friends, but if you are lucky to have friends around who are open and understanding, it can help you in your carer journey.

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Openness.

A risky trait, but expect to use it sometimes. As a carer you will have to be honest about a situation, you might expect to be put between a wall and a hard place. Basically when the ‘cared for’ is refusing help, you will have to raise the call for help, even against the ‘cared for’ wishes. A carer will have to be truthful and open about what is going wrong and expect your relationship with the ‘cared for’ to decline, but think to yourself, what is the risk? You might be thankful one day that you were open and honest about something. Expect the relationship to be slow to build back up again, if ever.

Phone call to check on how someone is

As a carer, it helps to use many tools in your carer’s journey, this is often used if your a distant carer (someone caring from a distance). Even if the ‘cared for’ is not in crisis, a carer might call to see how things are, you might never know what the ‘cared for’ might say. Take note, that with the advent of smart phones, it might help to add the person on Whatsapp, Skype, Facebook or other applications.

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Quality time

Sometimes it is not always about care, care and caring. Spending quality time with the person can help make a difference. Think of it this way, what was the person like before they became unwell? Your relationship might have changed somewhat, but deep down they are still that same person. Sometimes spending quality time is what is needed and expect to do this as a carer to help connect with them.

Safety (common among carers)

Did I say common among carers? It probably is the number one rule book for unpaid carers. You might think providing a safe space for the ‘cared for’ is all that it is, but that is not the full story. Ever heard of the consequences when things go wrong in the health system? Carers will sometimes protect the ‘cared for’ especially when serious incidents will occur, think of wrong medications provided, or wrong decisions putting the ‘cared for’ at risk. Then it can be a tug of war when the carer has to push for the ‘cared for’ to get that support from the health and social care system. Overall the carer will have to be a shield for many things and expect to take some blows.

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Show up physically and mentally

Not the same as being there, expect to take on health and social care settings. Sometimes you as a carer might think some things are being done as a tick box, well you could be right. As a carer you will have to deal with the following professionals.

  • Clinical Psychologist
  • Psychiatrist
  • Nurses (different Bands)
  • Mental Health Counselor (families)
  • Social Worker
  • Care Coordinator
  • Ward Pharmacist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Ward Manager
  • Admin for services
  • GP
  • Peer Specialists
  • Advocates
  • PALs Team
  • Home Treatment team staff

Yep! and this is only the HALF of it. So as a carer how would you prepare in an important meeting, if you are not sure what that person does or if the professional is being difficult? Well, I am sure at some point I will blog about engaging with professionals, but as a carer, do not expect the ‘cared for’ will do the legwork.

Smiling or trying to

As a carer you don’t have to do this, in fact it is better to seek support if you are feeling down rather than pretend and put on a false smile. It does obviously help to keep one’s spirits up, but be honest with your wellbeing and reach out for support for yourself as well.

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Someone to really listen (listening skills)

This is very important for unpaid carers. If the ‘cared for’ has no one to talk to then expect to listen and avoid saying much or criticism. This is not something easy to do, because it depends on your relationship to the ‘cared for’. There has been times I have had to listen because the person I care for ended up ranting due to being unhappy with how she was treated. It was just because there was no one she would trust to rant to instead, not even the Samaritans. In the end, I just kept quiet and listened, then walked away hoping that her complaining helped in some way. As a carer, expect to listen, but also expect to learn some listening skills.

Time alone (Important!!)

It is so important that you as a carer get time alone for yourself, it might be for recharging your energies, thinking things through or just relaxing. This is probably because a carer has to go through a lot, especially all the things that can play on the carer’s mind. If a carer cannot get time alone, then they could themselves become the next patient.

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Trust (Very common)

In health professional we trust! As carers you will need to put your trust in professionals because you cannot do everything yourself. You will have to hope and trust that your doctor will involve you in the ‘cared for’ situation. If that does not work, then pray the doctor is skilled in being diplomatic enough to remind the patient why they need support from those close to them. Sometimes doctors tend to take the easy way out and let the patient’s word be law, but life is not always as simple as that, why? Think about the serious incidents when the carers or public were right about someone being at risk and the health professionals were wrong. It does happen and unfortunately it won’t be the last, but until then the carer will have to trust in others and trust the ‘cared for’ will seek support.

Words of encouragement (what words to use)

Expect as a carer to encourage the ‘cared for’ to not give up hope. The carer will need to be skilled in being supportive with words and not only just in listening skills. In fact a carer may end up becoming some form of counselling for the ‘cared for’, but only if support structures are lacking.

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The conclusion.

Unfortunately these are just some of the carer’s traits in the carers journey. The carers world can be a difficult long struggle, but it can also be rewarding as you share the ‘cared for’ life successes, hopes, dreams and struggles. It need not be unbearable tough if you learn as much as you can on what it means to be a carer.

Good luck in your caring journey.

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Black History Month – BAME carers

10177241_747738765268892_5890142387668348507_nThanks for dropping by my website. This blog is usually aimed at unpaid carers and promoting mental health awareness. There will be times I will provide updates from the carer forums I host around South London, but due to limited resources, I just cannot always update.

Going off topic, at the time of this particular post, it is the 28th of Monday October 2019. Black History Month is soon drawing to a close, but there are still plenty of events going on around the UK. I have just participated at the St Andrews Black History conference, which was the first of its kind for the Charity. I am bound to blog a bit more about that when I get some time, however the conference opened my eyes to the challenges of BAME nurses and mental health professionals.

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Still, I thought that this is not the time to focus on mental health professionals on this post, I want to jot down some thoughts about BAME unpaid carers. I know one of my forums is focuses on BAME families and carers, but to understand why I decided to set up that forum in Lewisham, it would be a good idea to carry on reading.

The struggle of BAME Carers

As an unpaid carer trying to work out my roles and duties. I felt my identity as a carer/BAME needs some highlighting. Even if it seems complex to others on being a Mental Health BAME unpaid carer. Such an identity shows the complexity and issues that I would need to face. Being an unpaid carer working towards being identified can often be a struggle, especially when caring during a crisis, but unfortunately carrying out a role and ones own identity can make matters tricky.

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It is a sad fact that BAME carers tend not to engage much with services. There seems to be some form of distrust as to why their loved one is struggling with health services, especially mental health services. I see there is much change going on and for the better, I notice so many people trying very hard to change things for the better and I thank them for this, but there is still some ways to go.

The issue with BAME carers regarding mental health services is that they can be tired of the same journey. Having to challenge unconscious bias or wondering if they are being judged on their actions or on identity. Sometimes BAME families and carers feel they are being pushed into labelled boxes as engagement policies strive to identify BAME issues.

It does not help that their are also social challenges as well as health challenges within the BAME community, which can make life even harder for BAME families and carers.

If all the above was not tough enough, then BAME groups sometimes suffer from getting specific tailored support due to cultural misconceptions, language difficulties, stigma related issues and unfortunately discrimination.

So with all the above demanding change and attention, what can a BAME carer like myself do?

The power of BAME Carers

The first thing is to raise awareness of these experiences. Ever heard of the quote “A problem identified is half solved?”. Well I am not sure if the quote was said in this many, but it speaks volumes. BAME carers need to unfortunately help in raising awareness, especially of their experiences. BAME carers ought to try and network with other carers, just as some way to reduce the isolation. The more a person becomes isolated, the more they lack that vital support.

Unpaid carers often miss out on social interaction, specifically if the carer is supporting someone with serious mental health illness. It is so important carers recognise their isolation and take steps to counter the loneliness. It is ok to feel lonely, but to stay lonely is not ok.

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As a carer, so much usually goes on in my mind, there probably is not a day that I do not replay my failings and difficult experiences in my head. Perhaps I am too hard on myself, but at least I am slightly aware that I need that support. If you are a BAME carer, do yourself a favour and network. Phone a friend even if it is just to be heard.

For black history month, I made it my mission to take part in events that celebrate the diversity of the community. As a BAME carer, if you can get out there and speak about your experiences, it can shed more light on the subject of identity. Sometimes it is just on learning about your past and the culture you came from, sometimes we are more than what we do.

You deserve to have your voice and relate to the community, even if its for just that month. Being part of something need not be a challenge, but unfortunately BAME carers need to find somewhere that supports their voice and urges them to be part of the health system. As with BAME carers, we should be encouraged to be aware and celebrate what makes us different and feeling no shame or stigma about it. Deep down thought as carers we are all alike as we experience the same emotion all other unpaid carers go through. Those would be the fear that illness is taking it toll, the joy that we are supporting those we care about and so on.

There is nothing wrong in being proud as a carer, its not an easy role and depending on the MH or health challenges, the struggle of caring should be counted. It is not your fault that the person has become unwell, you are trying the best you can, especially if you are a young carer.

As BAME carers, even though its great to have Black History month boost, celebrate and educate our achievements. It should also be used as a welcoming of all who want to celebrate with us. As carers our nature is to be inclusive of others and we also require others to emulate what we are trying to do, especially healthcare. As carers we wish to see inclusive healthcare celebrating diversity and being proud it if, despite the challenges being asked.

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From what I have learnt from Black History month, which can help in regards to BAME carers is that we wish to avoid being forgotten. There is so much more to be learnt from Black History month, but as a carer the fear is that we could be forgotten as those we care about slip into declining health. It is an awful fearful experience to struggle alone at times and it really helps if someone out there acknowledges our struggle.

Thank you for reading and have a happy Black History Month.

Lambeth MH Carers Forum update October 2019

20140710_143445Welcome to the October update of one of the 4 carer engagement forums I either promote and chair. This particular forum is over in Lambeth and kindly hosted by Lambeth Carers hub.

Carers’ Hub Lambeth is an independent local charity based in Brixton. They are there to relieve the stresses experienced by unpaid carers who live in or care for somebody living in Lambeth. This also includes those carers trying to care for someone suffering from mental illness, although I will use the term suffering lightly since some service users feel there is strength in at least fighting through mental health.

The Lambeth Mental Health Carers forum is a platform for carers to come together, discuss and engage with services. It is important for unpaid carers to have that relationship with community, social and mental health services. Carers need to have that space where they are empowered to ask why certain service provision is the way it is.

Most times unpaid carers are satisfied with the answers they get. Other times, such answers lead to more questions and some questions might even go so far to be quite complex. It is not enough for unpaid carers to tell their stories time and time again. Carers should be encouraged to point their noses into things that affect the carer’s journey.

For the October forum, we had Rebecca Martland visit us. She is doing a Research project on ‘Feasibility of high intensity interval training in improving physical and mental health in inpatients with severe mental illness’. Yes, it is a long title, but the project is critically important because so many patients suffer from physical ill health due to inactivity and having difficultly finding someone to provide mentoring in physical health training.

Rebecca Martland who is a researcher from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience leads on this research. The IOPPN is a research institution dedicated to discovering what causes mental illness and diseases of the brain. In addition, its aim is to help identify new treatments for them. Rebecca also works for South London & Maudsley, where the IOPPN is in partnership with SLaM.

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Rebecca  wants to run more Focus groups with inpatients with SMI, carers of patients with SMI and staff to scope perceptions of attitudes and practicalities of the HIIT study.

It was great for Rebecca not only to have attended the Southwark MH carers forum, but also engage with carers from the Lambeth MH carers forum in the same month, which I admire greatly. I was happy to also hear some carers have signed up to her focus group to give ideas on the research.

The forum then spent some time going through last month’s minutes, which had been drawn up by James Holdcroft from Carers Hub Lambeth. James had done a brilliant job recording difficult meetings and helping us members keep focus on issues raised.

We discussed a few things from the minutes, one being the consultation on what will happen to Lambeth Hospital, others discussions where on SLaM’s patient record system and also discussions about carers assessments and tracking the numbers of unpaid carers in the borough Lambeth.

Next up at the Lambeth MH carers forum was Robert Stebbings the Policy and Communications Officer from Adfam. Robert was here to update the forum on the work Adfam has been doing throughout the year, specially with families and carers.

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Adfam is the national charity working to improve life for families affected by drugs or alcohol. They work heavily with families caring for someone affected by drugs or alcohol. Their vision is allowing those affected by addiction to have the chance to benefit from healthy relationships, be part of a loving and supportive family and enjoy mental and physical wellbeing.

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Adfam do a lot of campaigning and policy work. Off their site it was amazing to see how many groups their CEO was working with, those being.

  • The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs
  • Commission on domestic and sexual violence and multiple disadvantage
  • Mentor-ADEPIS steering group
  • Safer gambling campaign advisory panel
  • Manchester Metropolitan University’s substance use and end-of-life care steering group.

One of the members of the Lambeth MH Carers forum had even been involved with Adfam visiting parliament to discuss the latest initiatives on addiction, which I was very proud to hear carers working hard to be heard.

Robert spoke about the difficulties Drug, alcohol and addiction can cause to families.

Those being

  • Financial Impact
  • Constant worry and anxiety on families affected
  • Bereavement, especially when addiction leads to someone taking their life
  • The problems of trust and denial.
  • Isolation
  • Impact on wellbeing and health
  • Feeling no light at the end of the tunnel
    ….and other life-changing impacts on families.

Robert also explained to the forum about the issues of stigma, which goes hand in hand when someone is suffering from addiction, as although addiction is recognized as mental ill health, a lot of people still see such behaviour as a matter of choice.

Plus he discussed what Peer Support and Advocacy groups Adfam have been providing and how they work.

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We were told how families and carers felt the following issues were a difficult path to navigate being,

Confidentiality
Loved one not honest with professionals or the nature of their problems
Service cuts and configurations
Plus families having to keep pushing the benefits of care involvement to professionals.

You can find out more about Adfam from their link below.

https://adfam.org.uk/

The members of the Lambeth MH carers forum discussed how the Carers UK conference went and were pleased I had a presence there. There was a request that I do a presentation on engaging with GP’s. The members are also very excited about next month’s visit from by the MP Helen Hayes. They probably are interested in what is being done for mental health in the borough of Lambeth and updates on how the borough of Lambeth & Southwark is supporting unpaid carers.

Southwark MH Carers forum October 2019

untitled-2Welcome back for the October update of the Southwark Mental Health Carers forum. Just so those to the blog understand. The term mental health carer does not mean the mental health of carers, it is a term to describe an unpaid carer supporting someone close who has mental health needs.

I would like to kindly thank Southwark CCG and Southwark Healthwatch in helping to advertise and publicise the carers forum.

The Southwark MH carers forum aims to allow unpaid carers to have a chance to understand and forum a relationship with mental health services in the borough of Southwark, we do not stop there. It is a right for unpaid carers to query health services and voice their opinions. Most members seek to understand why the social care and health services are the way they are. It does not help that the NHS changes rapidly and can be complex to adapt to local needs.

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The Southwark Mental Health carers forum had engagement from Kings NHS mental health strategy lead Gavin Smith to explain his mental health strategy. We also had Rebecca Martland from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience attend to talk about her new study, plus we were hoping Zenette Abrahams could update us on Southwark Council’s carers strategy.

Before we continued on with the forum which runs from Southwark Carers. I noticed there was a lot of pictures and items on show. I had just caught the Southwark Carers Black History month exhibition and celebration, which was put on by one of the Southwark Carers Trustee. I spoke to her about the importance of Black history, which takes place in the month of October.

Just so you know Southwark Carers provides several services, one being the enabling service, which encompasses active listening, advocacy, signposting and support in tackling stressful issues outside of the caring role. The other being empowering carers with information and knowledge about their rights.

There were lots of photos on display regarding heros of black history and what it was like to live in those times. The CEO of Southwark Carers kindly showed me one of the costume cut outs.

 

We had a good turn out at the carers forum as I explained the agenda and unfortunately Gavin could not stay, but would be back again in future. I explained to the members of the forum as to why it was important to have a platform for carers to at least be interested on what their borough was doing for them. It should be a right for carers to come together and share what is working for them and what is not working.

The forum still needs to grow further so I have some work to do. I spoke on the updates provided by Southwark council in regards to the Carers Pathways Project Board. The Carers Pathways Project Board was established at the end of July, and work being undertaken around the carers pathway. I was given a contact to at least find out how the board was getting along. It is important carers be updated on what will be provided for them, rather than systems being designed where there is little or no carer input. It does not matter if it is bad news, but carers should know about it.

Next we had Rebecca talk about her project regarding improving physical health of patients on the inpatient wards. Basically they are starting a feasibility to see whether High intensity interval training (HIIT) might be acceptable and helpful for inpatients with Serious mental illness.

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Eligible patients who consent to take part would be randomly allocated to HIIT or to Treatment as usual. The HIIT involves alternating short bursts of high intensity exercise (1 minute intervals) with recovery periods of light exercise (90 second intervals) (Each session will take 11 minutes overall + warm-up and cool-down) and will take place in the Bethlem and Maudsley Hospitals on a stationary bike – People will be asked to attend for up to 12 weeks, even after their discharge, but they’ll start as inpatients.

The group discussed how important exercise is for those suffering mental ill health and felt physical health support was not focused on enough. Some members signed up to be part of Rebecca’s focus group.

I then updated members on the following being Guys & St Thomas carer’s policy and it means for both Kings NHS trust and Guys and St thomas NHS Trust.

I then updated the members about the Carers UK conference and what I spoke about at the conference, then I spoke about my visit to South West London & St George inpatient ward to speak to staff about carer involvement. I then spoke about the Lewisham CCG Mental Health stakeholder event with some members querying if Southwark CCG are doing something like that.

I then updated members regarding the carers support group and also that there will be a joint Southwark and Lambeth MH carers forum next month where MP Helen Hayes will be attending.

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MP Helen Hayes

We then heard updates from members who attended the SLaM NHS Southwark Advisory group, where plans to redevelop a ward were shown, plus a few other updates. Some members also registered to be on Southwark’s carers members list.

For Black History month I will be speaking at St Andrews healthcare on a carers view of BAME inclusion in the NHS and will probably write a blog before then.

Overall the Southwark MH Carers forum was empowering and there is plenty of work to do to raise carer focus, awareness and empowerment in the borough of Southwark.

Lewisham Mental health Stakeholder event 2019

imageWelcome to another blog from South London unpaid carer Matthew Mckenzie. On this particular blog, I am covering how the Lewisham Mental Health Stakeholder event went. Health Commissioner stakeholder events usually run once a year, these events are usually borough wide and incorporate the community regarding health interests.

The theme of the Lewisham CCG Mental Health Stakeholder event was on “Me and my community”. The theme was to help bring the community together to discuss, plan and celebrate how Lewisham as a whole are working towards the mental health and well-being of its community.

The event took place over at Lewisham Town Hall – Civic Suite from 9:30 am till 4:30 pm. If I remember correctly, the event takes ages to plan and I believe such a stakeholder event was not run in 2018. So the event was great received, due to many mental health service updates and changes in the community.

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The stakeholder event had many stalls from providers, workshops, sessions and talks and presentations. Those involved in the event were of course Lewisham CCG, Lewisham council, South London and Maudsley NHS Trust (who provide MH services in the area), Lewisham Healthwatch, Bromley, Lewisham & Greenwich Mind, Compass (services for children), Lewisham Carers, Department for work & Pensions, Sydenham Gardens, GCDA, Lewisham college, Lewisham & Greenwich hospital trust and more.

To open the event, we had the welcome from Councilor James Rathbone, who is currently Lewisham’s Mental health Champion. Next was the Lewisham Mental Health Alliance with updates provided by Donna Hayward-Sussex – who is SLaM’s Service director and also Dr Charles Gosling who is the CCG’s senior clinical director.

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Since the event was themed for Black history month, plus the London borough of Lewisham being a diverse community, we have an update on health inequalities in the borough from Dr Catherine Mbema who is the Director of Public Health in Lewisham.

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Next up was CEO of Your Voice in Health and Social Care who have partnered with Carers Lewisham. Tim Spilsbury spoke about the difficulties unpaid carers face in the borough of Lewisham and how the charity is seeking to tackle those issues. To my surprise he spoke about the Triangle of Care, which is a policy aimed at buildng a working collaboration between the service user, professional and carer.

One thing critical about stakeholder events is giving the community a chance to ask questions or bring out statements, so I was glad to see a panel session consisting of those who spoke previously including the Joint commissioner of Adult Mental Health and Head of services for BLG-Mind. We certainly had some hard hitting challenging questions from the audience, although I felt some great work has been done by the services so it was a shame no one mentioned anything about that.

Next up after the 20 minute break and some networking were the Workshops. The aim of the workshops was to either educate the community on mental wellbeing, provide updates on services, a way to promote services and allow for stakeholders to connect with the community.

Prevention – This workshop looked at Social Prescribing (connecting people in their community)

5-ways to Wellbeing – This workshop taught by Lewisham Healthwatch looked into those who work with children and young people.

What is the Relationship between Mental Health and Internalised Racism? – This workshop taught by Hillna Fontaine, explored the complex issues of race and mental health.

Carers Workshop – This workshop co-produced by some of my members of the Lewisham Mental Health Carers forum and Carers Lewisham and myself.

Mental Health Equalities – What we know, our ideas and your suggestions – This workshop facilitated by SLaM equality team looked into what the Trust is doing to improve the experiences of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) service users, carers and staff.

Social Inclusion Recover Services; Paths to Recovery at Sydenham Garden – On this workshop, we could find out more about Sydenham Garden’s work – helping people in their recovery from mental and physical ill-health in Lewisham.

Mental Health in Schools: Challenges and solutions – This workshop aims to explore mental and emotional health challenges faced in school environment.

Healthy Walk – An excellent workshop, were attendees found out about the greenspace, gentle exercise and good company are great for physical and mental wellbeing and were actually walking outside.

The Lewisham Wellbeing Map: showing the great places for health in our borough – This workshop looked into a social prescribing map for link workers, navigators, and signposters.

Help in a mental health crisis – A workshop taught by the manager of the Ladywell Unit looking at where you can access help in a crisis and what you can expect from services Alternatives to going to A&E

DWP – Forest Hill and Bromley Jobcentre – The Partnership Team and the Disability Employment Advisers provided people with an insight to what is available to support those with Disability and Mental Health under Universal Credit and Employment Support Allowance

Wellbeing Education at SLaM Recovery College – Lastly we Trainers from SLaM Recovery College will discuss how the college operates, the benefits of attending for SLaM service users, carers/supporters and staff members.

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A quick mention on the carers workshop I co-produced with members of the Lewisham MH carers forum, we looked at ways to involve unpaid mental health carers in the community as carers like myself can be isolated, lacking support and driven to desperation when supporting someone with mental ill health.

I cannot thank Lewisham CCG enough and also Carers Lewisham and YVIHSC for helping and attending.

All in all, I thought the event went very well with special thanks to Karin Barthel who is the senior CCG comissioner for involving myself and carers lewisham to run the workshop in co-production.

I hope other CCGs will continue to run stakeholder events, or I am wondering how do they engage with their communities when it comes to mental health and wellbeing.

Thanks for stopping by.

Being part of something

106542Hey there! Welcome to another new blog from unpaid carer Matthew Mckenzie. I have just come back from the Carers UK Conference 2019. As a carer I was inspired on how the event went and felt part of something. I felt part something very big and felt I should write up a couple of my thoughts on this post.

I had shared a panel session at the Carers UK conference and due to limited time, I could not manage to say all what I would have liked, however I felt I got the main messages out there to the audience. I wish this particular blog post carries on my message to other unpaid carers who stumble across this blog post.

This message is to you…fellow carer.

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