"lack of consultation and involvement with carers"

About: Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust

(as a carer),

The Northumberland Tyne and Wear (NTW) nhs trust reduced the staff providing involvement and support to carers without even letting carers have a say.

We have lost in Newcastle one carer support nurse and an involvement officer.

We carers have worked hard with the trust to develop the Carers Charter and to deliver training to staff free of charge. The trust has not even followed the basic principles of the charter in keeping us informed.

We wrote to the trust to put our views forward, but did not even get a reply. We contacted the governors but they had not been involved either. We feel that there has been a reduction in service without any consultation.

The trust has now lost a very experienced member of staff who made a difference to us, and made matter worse by creating new posts that do little to improve services but seem to continue to serve to showcase the corporate image.

We don't want money spent on a glossy image, we want our services back. How can the chair (carer champion) justify what he has done when at the same time allowing the governors to agree his pay rise, without telling them where the cuts to pay for this were coming from?

We have no confidence in the trust and feel let down.

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Response from Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust

I am very sorry that you feel let down by recent changes in staffing particularly in Newcastle.

Following a recent review of the trusts management structures, the separate service user and carer involvement lead posts were combined and a new post of Head of Patient and Carer engagement created. The post holder is specifically responsible for making sure that a high standard of support and opportunities for involvement are available for carers and service users across the trust. This team still has a number of involvement workers who have a wealth of experience in engaging and supporting both carers and service users and I would like to reassure you that these posts are highly valued and regarded by the trust, its staff and service users and carers alike.

The consultation with regard to the new structures was an internal consultation only and as such required us to only involve the staff affected by the changes. Despite this however the Chief Executive and other senior staff did meet with carer representatives to listen to their concerns about the perceived reduction in support. The Trust acknowledges peoples concerns in this area however in the current economic climate along with many other public sector organisations, we have had to review our resources and make some difficult decisions with regard to how we best manage our staff. The Trust have however continued to honour their commitment to working in partnership with carers and carer representatives and do not feel that the restructure should impact on carers themselves.

The carers support nurse in Newcastle has provided a very valuable service to carers of older people in Newcastle for a number of years but as a single member of staff she had only been able to support a very limited number of carers. The older people’s service was conscious that this support for carers was particularly vulnerable if that person was absent from work for any reason and some carers had to wait for very long periods to access information resources from the nurse. Alongside this, the Trust has established a memory assessment and management service, staffed by a group of specialist clinicians whose role includes providing information and support for people with dementia and their carers and this service has increased the availability and timeliness of support to those who require it. The staff in the memory assessment and management service also work with a network of organisations, who may also be commissioned by the NHS, that provide support to carers to identify who is best suited to provide the support they need.

This year, we have developed a network of carer champions across the trust who have a specific role in ensuring that their services support individual carers well. We have also invested in creating ‘carers packs’ which are available to new carers accessing services. The development of these packs has been led by carers and carer Governors, and is in response to the issues that carers raised in our independent carers survey in December 2010. The packs have been professionally designed and created as we felt it was important to invest in high quality information which carers could keep, use and refer back to. We continue to believe that this is a sound investment. Coupled with the packs, inpatient wards now contact families and carers within 72 hours of a new admission to hospital, offering a meeting with a key member of staff. At these meetings, carers have an opportunity to talk about their needs as a carer and receive information to help and support them in their caring roles.

I am very disappointed to hear that you have not received a response to your written views. I have reviewed our files and am confident that we have responded either in writing or in person to all of the letters we have received from carers and carer groups. I would be very grateful if you could forward a copy of your letter to me, and I will be very happy to provide a response.

We continue to strive to achieve the principles set out in our Carers Charter, and highly value the strong support we receive from carers, our carer Governors and carers organisations across the localities we work within. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss any issues in person with you so that I can understand them more fully. Please contact me via the Chief Executives Office.

Elizabeth Moody

Group Nurse Director

0191 2232975