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Birmingham and Solihull Mental health NHS Foundation Trust
Better Together

Caring for carers in Birmingham and Solihull mental health services

Published: 15/06/2018
A group of carers whose loved ones receive services from Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (BSMHFT) have completed a pioneering training programme to help them use their experiences to support others in a similar position.

Developed and delivered by the Meriden Family Programme, an NHS programme which is part of BSMHFT, this Carer Peer Support Training gives carers the skills to help other carers and their families when their loved one has been diagnosed with a mental health condition.

Dr Grainne Fadden, Director of the Meriden Family Programme, explained: “We know that is extremely distressing when a family member or close friend experiences mental health difficulties, for both the service user and their carer and we recognise that it is extremely beneficial for families and carers to talk to someone outside of the Trust network. It can help them to feel less isolated, reduce the stigma around mental health conditions and give them the opportunity to share their concerns with someone who really understands. It also encourages carers to recognise that they need to focus on their own health, both for their own wellbeing and so that they are able to care for their loved one.”

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Les Bloom, one of the carers who has completed the Carer Peer Support Training, said: “When we are in a crisis, it is a dreadful time for service users and carers; we can feel lonely, isolated and guilty. Speaking to someone who has been in a similar position would have really helped me. Also carers can often be left out of the loop when care and treatment are being discussed, but when the medical profession support and engage with carers, and recognise their valuable support, it is worth a thousand pills.

“We hope this training will help us to use our knowledge and understanding to support other carers and that it will also encourage more dialogue with mental health teams.”

The carers have developed listening and communication skills to help them in their role of Carer Peer Support Workers and also learned about the best way to share their own stories with those they are supporting.

Sue Hartley, the Trust’s Executive Director of Nursing feels the Carer Peer Support Programme will bring huge benefits: “We recognise our carers have the best knowledge of the relatives or friends they care for. They also know what type of support other carers need. Our carer peers will also be invaluable in helping us to involve carers more in planning care for their loved ones. We’re committed to using the expertise of service users and carers to help us improve the service we offer so that they best meet the needs of individuals. The carer peer support training is part of wider work we are embarking on in the Trust to further improve engagement with families and carers and ensure that their views are taken into account when planning care and treatment.”

The Carer Peer Support Workers will be working with carers and Trust staff across all departments including inpatients, outpatients and community services. In particular, they will help to signpost carers to appropriate support agencies such as those provided by Birmingham Mental Health Carer Support Service (previously Stonham).