Excerpt from the executive summary:
Support for carers needs to be considered within the context of the national policy agenda for health and care. The Department of Health sets an annual mandate for NHS England and in 2014 it stated that the NHS must “become dramatically better at involving patients and their carers, and empowering them to manage and make decisions about their own care and treatment” (Department of Health, 2014). In responding to the mandate, NHS England developed its Commitment to Carers and identified 8 priorities (NHS England, 2014a):
- Raising the profile of carers
- Education, training and information
- Service development
- Person-centred, well-coordinated care
- Primary care
- Commissioning support
- Partnership links
- NHS as an employer.
Further context for any developments supporting carers comes from the 2014 Care Act (HM Government, 2014). The Act created parity of esteem between carers and those they support, strengthened carers’ rights to an assessment, and created a new duty on local authorities to meet carers’ eligible needs.
The Act also created new duties for local authorities to promote wellbeing, including delaying and preventing care and support needs, and supporting people to live independently for as long as possible. There is also a duty to cooperate, and of integration. Local authorities must carry out their care and support functions with a view to ensuring integration with health and health-related provision.
The NHS Five Year Forward View, and the Next Steps iteration provide the strategic direction for the NHS, and also underlined the importance of a new relationship with patients and communities (NHS England, 2014b, 2017). In addressing prevention objectives, the Forward View identified the need to “find new ways to support carers”, particularly the most vulnerable groups of carers such as those aged over 85. The Next Steps document once again underlined the need for further action to identify and support carers, and particularly to reduce carer breakdown and improve carer health-related quality of life.
More specific policy objectives for supporting carers have been located in the National Carers Strategy, first introduced in 1999, and developed through various updates in the years since. A ‘Carers Action Plan’ was published in June 2018 and emphasised that the needs of carers will also be central to the forthcoming social care green paper (Department of Health and Social Care, 2018). . The action plan announced the creation of a Carers Innovation Fund to develop and promote creative and cost-effective models and carer-friendly communities.