Aim We describe a novel approach using volunteers to support the carers (parents/grandparents/guardians) of children admitted to our acute Paediatric ward.
Methods The Carer Support Team was conceived and created by a mother whose child’s chronic health needs necessitated frequent admissions. She saw that carers often lack a 24/7-support network; some have limited English. All are stressed and face sitting beside their sick child for indeterminable periods of time. The pressures of delivering care in today’s busy NHS means that health care professionals struggle to deliver practical and emotional support to carers. The carers support group was set up to meet this need.
The Team has a purpose A volunteer may sit with a child while a carer showers, help a carer compile questions for the consultant, or distribute information about the hospital. This support boosts the resilience of carers, enabling them to better care for their child.
The Team crosses boundaries to build effective partnerships Volunteers are recruited from the local community and are subject to a formal interview process. They undertake specific training for this unique position. They work closely with the multi-disciplinary team (medical staff, play specialists and allied health professionals). The management committee develops the team, and ensures that Trust governance requirements are met. The Carers Support Group receives no NHS funding and so the group has successfully sought and secured sponsorship from a local business and a government Innovation Fund.
Results On a recent inspection, the Care Quality Commission cited the Team as an example of “outstanding practice ”. They reported: “[The Team] was subject to the same governance and recruitment checks as the Ward’s staff.” We regularly receive excellent feedback from carers via our structured questionnaire.
Conclusions The Carer Support Team improves the patient and carer experience on our acute Paediatric Ward. We believe that this novel approach contributes to our recent CQC rating of "Outstanding" care.
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