Does someone rely on you? Local NHS on mission to identify unpaid carers ahead of Carers Week, 10 – 14 June

Photo: Carer, Angela Gunstone, and Family / Carer Supporter, Carol Miller.
Carer, Angela Gunstone, and Family / Carer Supporter, Carol Miller.

Published: 22 May 2019

It’s Carers Week next month, and Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust is working to ensure that staff identify, engage and support unpaid carers.

Carers are the people who look after a friend or family member, who cannot manage alone without their support (excluding parents carrying out normal parenting roles, volunteers or paid care workers). The carer, along with the person themselves, is often ‘the expert’ about the person’s medical history and care needs, so they should be involved in discussions about care planning, diagnosis and discharge planning. They play a very important role both during an individual’s time in hospital, whether they are an inpatient or outpatient, and in supporting them at home. They are therefore critical partners for the NHS, and so health and care staff should engage Carers as early as possible. This campaign is asking staff to: “Think I.R.I.S.”

I.R.I.S. stands for ‘Identify,’ ‘Record,’ ‘Involve’, ‘Support’ – and is an active reminder for Trust staff to help them engage unpaid carers at the earliest opportunity. It is appearing on a raft of digital and print media throughout the Trust, including folded business cards which staff may carry around with them.

Once a carer is linked with Carers Services they are eligible for a wide range of support including health and wellbeing checks, 1 to 1 support, finance/ benefits advice, free car parking at Torbay and community hospitals when supporting the person they care for, and local discounts including from Aroma cafe, Bayview Restaurant and WHSmith in Torbay Hospital.

Carol Miller is a Family / Carer Supporter at Torbay Hospital, a role she shares with four other people. She is easily identified by the purple sash which all Family / Carer Supporters wear. When on duty, Carol visits all Torbay Hospital wards to help identify carers, and will sit with a carer and the person they care for to help with any practical or communication issues. Carol says: “On a typical day I visit all the wards during the morning so I am back on the Advice Point at main reception from around 1pm. I have had so many people come and tell me how grateful they are once they have registered. The free parking alone is an enormous help to them, enabling them to spend more time either visiting or accompanying the person they care for in the wards, in our Emergency Department, or at an outpatient appointment. I have been told many times I am an angel – but I’m simply passing on the good news to people about the Carers Service!”

Katy Heard, Carers’ and Volunteers’ Lead for the Trust says: “It’s important we identify carers for two reasons: first, so we can provide the best care for the person being cared for, by involving the carer in discussions with social care, hospital and community staff in a timely way; and second, so we can help and support the carer. We know that there are many people who are carers but who probably don’t realise they are. They think they are just doing what is needed of them and any difficulties they experience as a result – which could be emotional and mental stress, not having any ‘me time’, financial hardship, or practical issues – can lead to a person feeling very isolated and depressed. This in time can lead to their own health deteriorating so it is critical that they know about all available support. We have all the mechanisms in place to try to identify and engage carers, but we just need to get better at doing it – and the I.R.I.S campaign should help us to do that.”

The campaign will continue up to Carers Week which is 10 – 14 June, but will run regularly throughout the year in order to keep Trust staff alert to identifying and engaging carers.

If anyone thinks that they may be an unpaid carer, please contact Signposts for Carers in (01803) 666620, email Signposts for Carers or