Nationally, research shows that carer involvement and support in psychiatric inpatient services is particularly inadequate. When we spoke to local carers and carer support groups they echoed similar experiences and concerns, noting that at times of transition, when patients were being admitted or discharged from inpatient services, carers did feel particularly vulnerable.
What we did
To help address the concerns, we worked together with carers, local support groups and Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (HPFT) to identify what additional information and support carers wanted and how best inpatient mental health services could respond.
What we found
Carers said that when supporting their loved one through inpatient mental health services they:
- Weren't always involved in discussions about their loved one's care and weren't involved in decision-making processes
- Felt unsupported and found it very difficult to get help, especially when at crisis point
- Weren't given adequate information and/or tailored information to help them in their caring role
- The information available didn't explain what to do when things went wrong
- Found that staff rarely used, or were aware of, resources available within their own services, such as the 'Common Sense Confidentiality' booklet (which helps staff and carers know when and what information can be shared) and the Carers Handbook (information about what the service offers carers)
- Found the Carers Handbook was a good source of information (when provided) but could be overwhelming and/or too much information at the point of a loved one entering or exiting inpatient services
What happened next
We created a co-production group consisting of carers, representatives from HPFT, Carers in Hertfordshire, Guideposts and Viewpoint. The aim was to create new information resources that better supported carers at inpatient admission and discharge. These resources would be short, easily digestible, provide routes about what to do when things went wrong and the information could be tailored to specific needs if required.
Importantly, to ensure staff were aware of the new information resources and used them, HPFT promised to build in monitoring processes and measures for ‘success’ in relation to the implementation of the resources. Their commitments and measures in the form of an ‘action plan’ can be found in our report below.
To see and use the information resources yourself, please click on the links below:
- Welcome Resource (for when the patient is first admitted into psychiatric inpatient settings)
- Discharge Resource (for when the patient is discharged into the community)
These resources are now available in the Carers section of the HPFT website and will soon be made available in hard copy across inpatient wards.
A carer involved in the project said:
"I wanted to be part of this co-production group to ensure carers coming into the service have a better experience than I did. It was important to create these new resources to make sure carers know where they can get help. I hope the resources are taken forward by HPFT so carers can get the support they are entitled to and deserve."
Sandra Brookes, Executive Director for Service Delivery and Service User Involvement for HPFT said:
"We know there is more we can do to support our carers and that is why they are a priority for us and on our agenda. I would like to thank Healthwatch Hertfordshire and the co-production group for creating these resources to help improve the support carers receive from the Trust. More work needs to be done to ensure carers are informed, involved and supported and this will continue to be a core aim for us as a Trust."