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NHS must 'care for the carers', chief executive claims

The NHS has pledged to do more to help the millions of carers who provide unpaid care across England. 

New NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens (pictured) launched a document, which shows eight priorities and 37 commitments to help the NHS deliver the support carers have said they need. 

This includes a national event for young carers, a carers' champion on the board of NHS England, and promoting carers' interests through, for example, work on personalised care planning, end of life care and dementia.

NHS England's board champion for carers and chief nursing officer Jane Cummings, said: “Millions of people offer a lifeline to help and support their loved ones. My family and I have personal experience of caring for loved ones and I understand the impact this can have.

“[NHS England is] dedicated to making sure we provide the support, care and guidance they need, for themselves as well as those they care for. Providing that support to people is a huge privilege which I feel really passionate about.”

Simon Stevens said: “Carers are a hugely important to our society, their contribution is immense. Over 1.4 million people provide 50 or more hours of unpaid care per week for a partner, friend or family member.

“In terms of providing care, they are often doing most of the work so it is vital that we give in the NHS give them recognition and help they need. We also need to remember how the demands of caring can take its toll on people's own health. We need to care for the carers.”

Full-time carers are over twice as likely to be in bad health as non-carers (Census, 2011) and in the 2014 State of Caring Survey 80% of carers surveyed said caring has had a negative impact on their health.

The pressure of providing care to a loved one can have a serious impact on mental well-being with 73% of carers surveyed reporting increased anxiety and 82% increased stress (State of Caring Survey, 2014).

NHS England's eight priorities in its Commitment to Carers publication are:

 - Raising the profile of carers among staff, stakeholders and partners, making them aware of what carers do and how they can be helped.

- Improving education, training and information for staff, stakeholders and partners, increasing awareness of what it means to be a carer.

- Developing services, with NHS England investigating how carers are involved and where initiatives may be developed to make their role easier.

- Providing person-centred, well-coordinated care - this includes providing better information, involving carers and patients and giving them more control.

- Considering how carers may be helped through primary care, working with our partners to identify, measure and share best practice.

- Evaluating commissioning support, assessing the impact of services and policies on the role of carers.

- Helping to build, sustain and develop links between health, social services, charities and other key partners that will support carers.

- Continuing to offer policies on flexible working, leave and employment to support the carers among NHS England staff.