Latest poem by Carer Elsie Cronin

106542

‘Why’ By Elsie Cronin

Why don’t you see a Mum doing her best?
You see it differently from the rest

From your madness I take the flak
And patiently wait for you to come back

The worry you cause, the tears I cry
Just to end up asking why?

Why is it so wrong for me to care?
What is it you don’t want to share?

Be careful how you play this out
Madness or not I will shout

I have got your best interests at heart
So come on – make a start

Start to accept with grace
The love and care that I give without a trace

A trace of tiredness and frustration at your place……….
In the mental health rat race

When you come around, as you will
You may well find I’ve swallowed “the pill”

The “pill” of rejection that I receive
Each time you give it there is no reprieve

No reprieve
And so I grieve
Oh well hopefully you will reflect
On the one who sees a speck

A speck of you from long ago
That keeps on making me want to show

Show that I love you without conditions
With all my heart and soul

To you I pledge this rendition

Lewisham MH Carers forum April 2020

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

Continue reading

Southwark MH Carers forum April 2020

matthewWelcome to the April update of the Southwark Mental Health Carers forum. Just a short intro about the forum. The forum is aimed at carers who care for someone with a mental illness. I obviously try to aim the forum at carers based in Southwark, but we often ask for engagement with MH, health services, commissioners and social services.

All my carer forums including carer peer support groups are run via Zoom due to the COVID-19 crisis.

For the April forum we were joined by carers from Lambeth who are interested to hear more about the Lambeth hospital consultation. Members of the forum also wanted to submit queries and questions regarding the hospital move. The forum was also joined by South London & Maudsley’s Quality improvement peer supporter Richard Morton who kindly networked with carers at the forum.

We were also joined by a rep with lived experience from Healthwatch Southwark who have taken a keen interest with the carer forums since the forums are usually designed to engage with health services. Alice has taken over from Bron who engaged with the Southwark carers forum in the past.

The forum also was attended by a representative from PohWER who are one of the largest providers of advocacy services in the UK.  They provide information, advice, support and advocacy to people who experience mental ill health. We also had SLaM’s carer lead for southwark inpatient wards, southwark carer peer  facilitator and advisor and also a trustee from Southwark Carers along with carers from Lambeth and also Southwark.

First we had an update concerning the mental health patient wards in Southwark from the Southwark carer inpatient lead.  It was noted that some wards are being used by patients infected with COVID-19.  No training can be carried out during this phase, but carer peer support groups are running weekly instead of monthly.  I queried about other carer groups running in the community and by Southwark Council.

Emma Crowe the director of the London communications agency along with collegue Matthew spoke to the joint forum about the consultation of Lambeth hospital. Members of the carers forum were taken through a presentation used by the scrtuny committees.

We where shown the following

1. Why Lambeth Hospital has been around a very long time, some of its wards are not sufficient for MH patients and visiting family members.
2. We were given a virtual tour of the proposed hospital site in Southwark.
3. An explanation and discussion of the new Douglas Bennett House
4. The consultation plan and consultation progress along with timeframes

Notable key issues with the Lambeth hospital wards are

  • Current structural design of the buildings are deemed not safe as they should be for treating MH patients.
  • Most bedrooms do not have their own en-suite bathrooms and there are not enough bathroom facilities.
  • Lines of sight for staff looking after patients are rather poor in order to keep service users safe.
  • A poor quality of working environment for staff
  • Out off all the Lambeth hospital wards, only one ward has unsupervised access to an outdoor area and fresh air.
  • The environment at Lambeth Hospital is very cramped for service users and staff.

The Proposed New Facility

I will mention some of the consultation presentation at April’s Southwark Carers forum. Some points of the proposed new facility looked at

consultation

How clinicians, service users and carers from a number of boroughs attended workshops to help shape the design of the Douglas Bennett House facility on the Maudsley Hospital site.

  • The facility would include 72 acute beds for Lambeth patients across four 18 bedded wards.
  • The wards would all be single gender, compliant with modern standards, be light and naturally ventilated with direct, unsupervised, access to outside space.
  • The facility would also include a Psychiatric intensive Care unit and a rehabilitation ward designed to support needs of these services.
  • Two national specialist wards, neuropsychaitry and eating disorders, would be transferred from Bethlem Hospital.

These are obviously just some of the benefits of the proposed facility, although there were plenty of chances for carer members to query about the proposed changes. In regards to the consultation (which runs from March 2020 to 31 May 2020), SLaM have already received a number of responses.

Still the consultation will use a large range of media services to engage with the community from Printed consultation documents, posters, online questionnaires, letter and email to working with partners to distribute information.

The SLaM consultation team were polite and thankful for engaging with the forum and I suspect they will be back later on during the Year.

Next up was Richard Morton who is in SLaM’s quality Improvement role looking to network and engage carers on involvement routes at the Mental Health trust. Richard spoke about the range of committees at the trust some of them mentioned was the family and carer committee and the quality improvement committee along with borough advisory groups.

Even though some involvement groups have been suspended due to the covid-19 situation, others have started to use video conferencing to still engage with Service users and carers.

involvement

The Southwark MH carer forum was taken through the “Inpatient care process model” on how patients are supported by SLaM through their care journey. This was kindly provided to the forum by the Southwark carer lead for inpatient wards.

Richard Morton will be back engaging carers at the forum in the future as he will update on how involvement at the trust is progressing.

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

Lewisham BAME MH Carer Forum April 2020

10177241_747738765268892_5890142387668348507_nWelcome to the April update of the Lewisham BAME Mental Health Carers forum. This is one of the four forums that I chair in South London. Out of the four forums, this group focuses on BAME carer developments in Health and social care. The group has been going since 3 years or so.  Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, I am running all forums via my own ZOOM account.

The invited speakers for April was Shilpa Ross who is a senior researcher at the Kings Fund policy team that works on a range of health and social care research programmes. Shilpa was invited to the forum to speak about her latest research that not enough progress has been made to address discrimination against black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff in the NHS.

Continue reading

Southwark MH Carers forum February 2020

Southwark MH Carer forum v2Welcome to a quick update from the Southwark Mental Health carers forum. I know I have not been blogging for around a month, but I have recently suffered a bereavement. It has taken a fair bit of energy to do much, but I am quite proud to be able to continue to run the forums even though I have to take time and look after myself.

Given the time I will eventually write more about the current situation, but for now I want to at least update carer members. On the February update of the MH carers forum for Southwark, we are able to get support and engaged with King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Guys and St Thomas NHS Trust and South London & Maudsley. For February King’s college hospital Mental Health Lead kindly attended the forum to speak to carers about Kings Mental Health strategy, which is still going through development.

Due to the nature of our forum carers focus on mental health services, although the core interest is how health and social care services engage and involve families and carers. We get a lot of support from the healthwatches and are constantly looking for support from the CCGs, but at the same time families and carers must get the chance to be updated by health providers.

The february Southwark MH carers forum has moved to the Maudsley site for now, although as of the blog, I am running the forum remotely.

Maudsley_Hospital_Main_Building

Going back to King’s College NHS Trust, their MH strategy is a Five year strategy for mental health. I felt it so important acute trusts not only focus on physical health, but also include mental health, which will be even more important because once the covid-19 situation moves on, there will be an immense strain on mental health for staff, patients and their families.

Kings_college_hosiptal_

Gavin Smith the MH lead of King’s NHS Trust explained that the strategy should take into account several things

  • Population need: High levels of mental health need, including mental health presentations at the Emergency Departments.
  • Outcomes and experience: People with a mental health condition have poorer health outcomes and experience.
  • Current range of service provision: Areas of excellence, but inconsistency of provision of mental health support across services and sites.
  • System working: Strong relationships with SLaM and Oxleas and KHP Mind & Body programme; opportunity for improved relationships with primary, community and voluntary sector.
  • Training and development: Distinct training programmes mean few staff have skills across mental and physical health; some bespoke training exists for staff and mental health training is available via KHP Mind & Body
  • Governance: Mental Health Board and Mental Health Lead post established but intermediate structures around mental health are inconsistent.

Out of these areas mentioned, the system working and governance stands out as important not only to the Southwark MH carer forum, but to all the other forums. It was expained to carer members that the accute trusts will co-produce many things with involved carer champions.

The forum was then presented with an update on how far Kings NHS Trust have been working with these outcomes.

Next we were presented with why mental health is important to the health sector

  • Mental health has an impact on people’s physical health, wellbeing and outcomes.
  • 30% of people with long-term physical health conditions also have a mental illness
  • Shockingly 15-20 years shorter life expectancy for someone with a severe mental illness or learning disability
  • It does not help that patients with mental health needs have a poorer experience of care due to stigma
  • There can be a lack of confidence and awareness of staff regarding mental health
  • It does not stop there as 8 Billion a year is spent by the NHS treating the effect of poor mental health on physical illnesses.

As you can see Kings NHS Trust has a clear interest into tackling mental health with what was raised to the forum. Of course more was mentioned in the presentation, but by focusing on meeting Kings NHS Trust patients’ mental and physical health needs, they will :-

  • Respond to the population needs and system priorities.
  • Improve access, outcomes, experience and safety.
  • improve the sustainability of their services

As presented at the Southwark MH carers forum, King’s operates within a complex landscape of mental health services in South London.

kings
Members of the forum were taken through a whirlwind tour of King’s services and how they seek to improve mental health provision on those services including

  • KCH services regarding SLaM and Oxleas.
  • Local Emergency and s136 services
  • Key acute and hospital-based services
  • Other specialist teams including – Drugs and Alcohol, Adolescent At-risk and Forensic Service (AAFS) and Forensic Services provide by SLaM.
  • Community services
  • Primary care – Being General practice and Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT)
  • Voluntary and social care
  • Self-help – being IMPARTS resources, COMPASS (in Southwark), Wellbeing Hub & online Mycommunity Directory

It is important King’s engage with their staff on producing these outcomes, as they must engage with Core delivery partners and external stakeholders. King’s have engaged with the following of their staff.

  • Acute and emergency care
  • Gerontology/frailty
  • Liver specialist
  • Maternity – Took up a good discussion at the forum
  • Neurosciences – will be interested on their response
  • Paediatrics
  • Rheumatology
  • Corporate Nursing
  • Divisional Management Teams
  • Patient Outcomes
  • Public and Patient Engagement – should include families and carers
  • Research and Innovation
  • Workforce
  • Princess Royal University Hospital Transformation team
  • Strategy
  • Online survey to all KCH staff

Member of the Southwark MH carers forum were then presented with how King’s have explored areas of good practice and areas for improvement. Then we were presented with the strategic aim being that to continue to build on good practice, they will focus on their priority areas, and ensure the will consistently meet their patients’ mental and physical health needs. However King’s are well aware that their priorities must align with system priorities.

Kings have developed three priorities being

  • KHP Mind & Body priorities
  • NHS Long Term Plan priorities
  • SEL STP priorities

There are challenges to these aims being

  • The highest proportion of patients with a mental health condition recorded as primary at King’s is in A&E (27%).
  • The Emergency Department (ED) is frequently the default, but often an adverse, environment for people in crisis. Patients frequently spend over 12 hours in ED waiting for a mental health inpatient bed – the majority of our 12 hour breaches are for patients with a mental health condition.
  • There is a lack of mental health inpatient beds across South London, particularly CAMHS beds.
  • Patient feedback highlights positive experiences, as well as challenges including instances of stigma and lack of awareness, lack of confidence in adequately signposting or supporting patients with mental health needs, and long waits in a busy environment.

Nevertheless the forum was presented with how King’s will meet those challenges.

I am thankful for King’s engagement with carer members of the forum all of the members are more than happy to see how the MH strategy works out. A further update of the Soutwark Mental Health carer forum is we were presented with South London & maudsley’s involvement register into improving services and a way for the forum to engage with SLaM staff on familiy and carer engagment at the trust.

The forum seeks to work with SLaM’s family and carer committee when issues arise, although due to covid-19 SLaM’s involvement is on hold, but engagement will still continue with use of technology. For the March Southwark MH carers forum Guys & St Thomas NHS Trust presented their mental Health strategy.

I am as of present continuing to run 3 carer forums remotely and run the Greenwich carer peer support group remotely. This concludes the update for the Southwark MH carers forum with thanks to Kings NHS trust and SLaM.

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.

Click to access 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.

hands

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.

Continue reading

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.

Lambeth_main

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.

King's_College_Hospital1

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.

CarersUK_Logo_Lnd_CMYK_Pos

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