Carers Week 2023 – the invaluable role of community nurses in supporting carers
8 June 2023 | Fiona Rogers, QNI Nursing Programmes Manager – Innovation
It’s Carers Week 2023 – an annual event to raise awareness of caring and help people who don’t see themselves as having caring responsibilities to identify themselves as carers, the first step to accessing support.
Community nurses are ideally placed to support this year’s theme: “recognising and supporting carers in the community”.
I have been working as a nurse for over 30 years in both primary and secondary care settings and working with carers has been integral to roles including working in SCBU, SCPHN – School Nursing, Children’s Continuing Care, Project Manager Young Carers and laterally Programme Manager Unpaid Carers. These experiences coupled with personal experience in my family with caring has been very much part of professional and personal life for many years, as it is for many nurses: 1 in 3 NHS workers juggle a caring role and their job (Carers UK, 2022).
Latest census data reports approximately 5 million carers in England and Wales including 128,200 young carers (aged 5 – 17). Unpaid care by age, sex and deprivation, England and Wales – Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk) and the first dataset from the School Census published shortly is eagerly awaited. Annual surveys repeatedly highlight the challenges faced by young carers:
- Anxiety relating to household finances
- Intensification of caring role
- 28% not often or never have someone at school, college or university who understands
- 40% not often or never get help in school, college or university to balance caring and education.
New Carers Trust survey reveals devastating double whammy of cost-of-living crisis and increasing intensity of caring responsibilities on children and young adults – News & Media – Latest News, Views & Opinions | Carers Trust
Stark findings are also reported about adult carers:
- Carers are not always able to access support for their own health and wellbeing
- Policy and service design does not always reflect the diversity of carers
- Workforce shortages are having an impact on carers health and wellbeing having to fill the gap.
This Carers Week 2023, imagine the difference over 86,000 community nurses - including 2000 Queen’s Nurses - could make if at their next clinic appointment, home visit, school drop-in, outreach session they ‘Think Carer’.
Working in a role specifically with carers of all ages at West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board was an excellent experience, enabling me to build on knowledge and skills alongside working with both local and national colleagues all striving to identify and support carers of all ages. Creating and launching an e-cook book, an app and co-producing films were projects I never imagined as a nurse leading, but working with colleagues from across the system including Local Authorities, VCSE sector and 0-19 services co-produced and delivered a series of resources. Lived experience and carer voice was at the heart of the work and when a young adult carer shares, “I’m only eating one meal a day now due to the cost of living,” you know there is work to do and you do it. These resources and others are all freely available and can be found on Supporting carers:: West Yorkshire Health & Care Partnership (wypartnership.co.uk)
A new job with the QNI as Nursing Programmes Manager – Innovation now brings an exciting opportunity to bring these experiences to a national role and new organisation. Nationally, work is ongoing with positive changes to legislation including ensuring carers of all ages are involved in hospital discharge planning and most recently working carers will have the right to five days carers’ leave each year. A Carers and Hospital Toolkit for London Hospitals and Community Providers was recently published too but there is still work to do! NHS England — London » Carers and Hospital Discharge
Community nurses touch people’s lives across the lifespan and caring does too: young carers, young adult carers, parent carers, working carers, older carers… In my short time at the QNI I can already see opportunities through the variety of networks, national healthcare policy and nursing practice work, innovation projects and the network of over 2000 Queen’s Nurses throughout England and Wales, working across the life course and in a variety of different settings.
This Carers Week 2023, imagine the difference over 86,000 community nurses – including 2000 Queen’s Nurses – could make if at their next clinic appointment, home visit, school drop-in, outreach session they ‘Think Carer’. The opportunities in the community are endless to identify and support carers of all ages and potentially change the life of someone as young as 4 years old to 104 years old.