NHS England
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Building carer friendly communities – Dr Neil Churchill

To mark Health and Wellbeing Day which is part of National Carers Week running from June 6 to 12, NHS England’s Director of Patient Experience recognises the contribution Carers make to families and communities throughout the UK:

This year, Carers Week is focusing on building Carer Friendly Communities. Communities which support carers to look after their family or friends well, while recognising that they are individuals with needs of their own.

The NHS has a part to play in making all communities more carer-friendly. For one thing, we need to recognise that carers are key partners in managing the care needs of the people they look after. That’s not all: carers also form a hugely significant group of patients who need particular support to look after their own health.

From simple one-off actions to ongoing commitments, there are all kinds of ways for health services to recognise carers’ role, involve and consult them about the treatment of the person they care for, and help them look after their own health at the same time.

To build and maintain carer-friendly communities, public services like the NHS, social care and education, need to work more closely together.

To mark Carers’ Week, NHS England has recently published a toolkit to help health services, social care and third sector organisations work together in a joined up way to identify, assess and support carer health and wellbeing. We are encouraging local partnerships to be carer aware and carer-friendly.

I am looking forward to seeing more fantastic programmes during the course of the week.

For many of us, the workplace is an important part of our community and it is important to acknowledge that around three million people currently juggle paid work with caring for a relative or close friend, whilst a staggering 2.3 million people have given up work to care. Women are more likely to be juggling work and care, something which will affect the NHS workforce in particular because of the fact that the vast majority of workers are women.

NHS England has committed to building a culture that is supportive of the community of carers in its workforce. All employees can access free resources through our partnership with Employers for Carers, including information about carers’ rights, flexible working and guides explaining more about being a carer.

Carers at NHS England also have the opportunity to join the Carers Network. This is an online community which provides sign-posting to useful information and contacts, and which also offers peer-to-peer support for those facing similar situations. I’m looking forward to the first meeting of the network which takes place in Carers’ Week.

By listening to and supporting NHS staff who are themselves carers, we will help the NHS become more carer-aware and effective at recognising and supporting carers.

Dr Neil Churchill is Director for Patient Experience at NHS England, where he leads improvement on non-clinical aspects of quality.

His brief includes NHS England’s Commitments to Carers, improving experience for people with cancer, working with users of learning disability services to improve quality, enhancing staff experience and learning from complaints and whistle-blowers.

Neil joined NHS England in 2013 after a 25-year career in the voluntary sector, at organisations including Barnardo’s, Age Concern, Crisis and Asthma UK.

He has been a Non-Executive Director for NHS South of England, an appointed member of the National Information Governance Board and a trustee of a number of charities.

Neil is a member of the Executive Board for the Beryl Institute and has a doctorate in art history from the University of Sussex. He lives in Sussex.

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