The carers’ clinical liaison service launched in February 2023 with funding from NHS South West London’s Innovation Fund, the Winter Pressures Fund and Kingston Hospital Charity.
It 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 a legal duty to involve carers in discharge planning. But it also goes much further, improving their experience of supporting someone who is receiving hospital care, their discharge and the transition back home.
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 NHS Trust for carers who live with and support a friend or family member, who could not cope without their help.
A ‘safe transitions of care assessment’ tool helps identify any barriers carers may have to coping when the person they care for goes home from hospital. The service works with each carer to identify their needs and put a plan in place. There is also advice about services and benefits they can access post-discharge. This could include training for the carer to confidently take on medical tasks and use new equipment, 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. A quarter of avoidable hospital admissions in patients over 75 are attributed to the decline in the health of an unpaid carer.
The team works with clinical staff to identify carers, as many are undertaking the role without access to valuable support. Once identified, they are given a carers’ passport and orientation of the hospital, which helps them understand how processes work. A carers’ clinical liaison practitioner is assigned to them throughout the hospital stay and to anticipate the support they will need in future, to help them to cope emotionally, financially and physically.
Kingston hospital has stepped up to ensure that unpaid carers are seen and heard…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.”Beth Mburu, carers’ clinical liaison practitioner
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 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 offer practical support and to link them to community support after they’ve left hospital has been a highlight of my role.”
One local unpaid carer said: “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.”