The article reviewed here is a Department of Health document ‘Developing Service for Carers and Families of People with Mental Illness’ first published in 2002 and freely available here. The aim of the document is described as being
‘to help local mental health services develop support services for carers of people with mental health problems‘
and the reader is directed to Standard 6 of the Mental Health NSF and guidance for the Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000. In the background section the authors explain how Social Service Inspectorate reports have emphasised that carers do not always gain access to services and a number of other documents are also discussed. In section 1.3 on the evidence base and research, the authors note that helpful research has emerged from the Social Policy Research Unit (SPRU) before mentioning NICE and the National Institute for Mental Health.
Section 2 covers the principles of a carer support service and quotes estimates of care provided by carers from The Princess Royal Trust for Carers. The identifcation of carers needs and inclusion of carers in planning service provision are emphasised before the important values for such services are discussed including being ‘positive and inclusive’, ‘flexible and individualised’, ‘accessible and responsive’ and ‘integrated and co-ordinated’.
Section 3 covers commissioning and planning of carer support services. This includes discussion of examples of good practice and the complexity of assessing such services given the heterogenous types of care that are provided as well an emphasis on specialised and not generic carer support.
Section 4 covers the identification and assessment of carers. There are some examples of good practice which include a General Practice with a printable document for carers on the intranet which is given to carers when relevant, the supporting carers better network and the Fareham and Gosport Rethink Carer’s Group which links in with the local acute admissions unit to provide information to carers.
Section 5 covers the provision of services to carers. In this section there are a number of examples of ‘positive practice’ including information made available by MACA, Making Space, The Carer’s Advisory Group for Mental Health in London, Rethink and Sandwell Primary Care Trusts. Section 6 covers the needs of Black and Ethnic Minority Carers and Young carers with an example of good practice. Section 7 looks at carer support workers, where they should be located, their skills and how they should be recruited. In the conclusion it is noted that the content of the document will already be known to services providing relevant support to carers. The appendices contain a sample job description for carers and further reading material.
As carers play an important role, addressing their needs can be argued to influence not only their own health and wellbeing but also that of the people they are caring for. This document addresses this important area, offering a structured overview of the issues surrounding relevant service provision as well as giving useful case studies which illustrate the principles being discussed.
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