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Kent & Medway NHS and Kent Community Health NHS FT joint Carers Conference 2022

Welcome fellow carers. Another update from carer ambassador Matthew McKenzie. I thought to do a quick update and feedback to a recent carers conference I have just returned from. The event has such a significance because it was held during carers week 2022.

As you might know already, I speak often about the carer’s policies on Triangle of care. Usually the triangle of care has been taken up by many mental health trusts, but we are seeing an evolution where community and acute NHS trusts are picking up the challenge to focus efforts to families, friends and carers. So on the 9th of June 2022. Kent & Medway NHS & Social Care Partnership Trust and Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust launched their first ever JOINT carers conference.

The conference took place over at the Repton Connect Community Centre over in Ashford. I had a pleasant journey by train as the sun was shining. Of course I did not want to miss the event, because I was involved in co-producing the event with other carers. This is very important for other NHS trusts to co-op carers into planning such events since carers have an idea on what other families, friends and carers would like to hear.

I am blogging about the event, because I dont think I managed to give feedback when I left near the end of the event. So I hope my feedback is useful.

As I arrived at the conference, it was easy to get in because both staff from the 2 NHS trusts recognised me straight away and were smiling. I did catch a hint of nerves as people wonder if something was going to go wrong or fall apart, but as the conference got underway, everything went smoothly.

We had a good turn out at the first ever carer’s conference for the 2 NHS trusts and I was very impressed that both Chief execs (Gordon Flack and Helen Greatorex) of the NHS trusts turned up to open the event. They both admitted that although lots of changes has happened, there was always more to do. What impressed me is that the CEO’s stayed for quite a while at the event and introduced themselves to many staff and carers.

The set up of both on-site and virtual engagement was very impressive, but it is a different experience if you turn up for the event, although I admit some people cannot leave the ‘cared for’ by themselves at times.

We have some excellent activities and workshops listed below

  • Carer stories from Liz
  • Carer experience Video from Kay
  • Workshop on Carer assessments and support (carer’s first charity)
  • Dementia Care from Specialist Nurse
  • A video from MP Helen Whatley who used to be Minister for Care
  • Recovery college presentation
  • Managing Medication
  • Triangle of Care progression and updates
  • Plus close from the Acting Chief exe and CEO

Favourite parts of the event

I would have like to say I loved all of the event, but some things stuck out more and I feel they ought to get a mention. These things would have to be the ‘Carer’s Stories’. If its on video or a brave carer standing up in front of other carers or staff, its always something special. I learn from others all the time and I am sure other carers and professionals learn from those stories. In fact one of the carer stories is used for training staff. It make things that personal and authentic.

Another thing I felt was important was the triangle of care update, especially from Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust, since it was the first non-mental health trust to take up the challenge of Triangle of care. Implementing the triangle of care is no easy task. It is not meant to be easy to be honest, but that NHS trust has laid the foundation for others to follow.

The food was very good at the conference and I hope in later conferences we can get something hot. I admit with conferences from South London and Maudsley, I get the feeling they splash out and spoil carers. Still, the food was very good and I did not waste anything. Most importantly, I networked with other carers and we exchanged details to keep in touch. This probably the most important reason for attending a carers conference. Carers ought to network and keep in touch.

Lastly, I took the chance to visit some stalls and found some useful information that can make life easier for unpaid carers, friends and family.

Overall I felt the staff worked very hard to put the first ever joint carer’s conference together and I hope the next conference will be bigger and lay even more foundations for others to follow.

I almost forgot. I did not manage to do a carer poem at the event. So I thought to leave one here, the poem highlights the importance of telling a carer’s story, especially at events like the one I have reviewed.

I tell my story to the crowd
I tell it loud, nice and proud
It is my story that I be telling
Of all my work and all my caring

No sweat, no fear I tell it here
Of all my hopes and all my fears
It started on that fateful morning
Her mental illness came without warning

I told the audience how I was frantic
I alerted the doctor who said “Don’t Panic”
It’s such a long journey of my caring
I am telling my story to be sharing

The audience stared, cheered and cried
And onwards still, I ve nothing to hide
All is laid out with my story to bear
I am doing my best with little to fear

And now my story is at an end
I hope the audience comprehends
I feel accomplished and feel understood
On telling my story, who thought I never would