Kingston Hospital’s Carers’ Clinical Liaison Service supported the 1000th unpaid carer this September when the person they care for was admitted to hospital. The service supports up to 16 carers a day, Monday to Friday.
In addition, a new service is now being established at Hounslow and Richmond Community Healthcare for carers who live with and support a friend or family member, who could not cope without their help.
The Carers’ Clinical Liaison Service, which launched in February 2023 with funding from NHS South West London’s Innovation Fund, the Winter Pressures Fund and Kingston Hospital Charity, acts as the voice of an unpaid carer from when the person they care for is admitted to hospital, through to their discharge. It then helps them navigate returning home and accessing support in the community.
The service fulfils the Trusts’ legal duty to involve carers in discharge planning, but goes much further to improve their experience of supporting someone receiving hospital care, discharge and the transition back home. The ‘safe transitions of care assessment’ tool helps carers and the hospital to identify any barriers they may have to coping well when going home from hospital with a person they care for. The Carers Clinical Liaison Service works with each carer individually to identify their support needs and put a plan in place early in the hospital admission, as well as services and benefits they can access post discharge. This could include training for the carer to be able to confidently take on medical tasks for their cared for person, manual handling, obtaining and using new equipment and making sure they have access to support if they face an emergency once they are home.
Unpaid care provides over £17 billion in value to the NHS and social care but caring can take a huge toll on the health and wellbeing of the carer. In addition, 25% of avoidable hospital admissions in patients over 75 are attributed to the decline in the health of an unpaid carer. As part of their work, the team has helped raise awareness with clinical staff around identifying carers, as many are undertaking the role without realising and in turn they miss out on invaluable support. When a carer is identified, they are given a carers passport and orientation of the hospital which helps them understand the processes their cared for person is going through. A Carers’ Clinical Liaison Practitioner is assigned to them and can help as little or as much as required throughout the hospital stay and to anticipate the support they will need in the future to help them to cope emotionally, financially and physically with their caring role.
Beth Mburu, Carers’ Clinical Liaison Practitioner, said: “Kingston Hospital has stepped up to ensure that unpaid carers are seen and heard. As a nurse transitioning from just caring for patients to now being the voice for carers, this role has been an eye opener as unpaid carers may often feel forgotten especially in a hospital environment. Being able to be there to offer practical support to them every day and to link them to community support after they’ve left hospital has been a highlight of my role.”
One local unpaid carer shared: “We have just started down the road to working out the best care package both from the hospital and from the community. The call was a great relief, but key will be gathering a plan both within the hospital and coordinating with the GP.”
Tony Bennett, Chief Executive of Kingston Carers’ Network, said: “Being an unpaid carer is a difficult role to fill at the best of times, and when a cared for person is in hospital, or returns home with increased needs, it can really take a toll. Knowing that this service is there to support people at such a vulnerable time is fantastic and is making a difference to the carer and those they look after.”