Hospitals are places where caring often begins, following an accident or a diagnosis, an admission with serious illness, the birth of a child with a disability.
They are also places where caring can intensify, when the experience and knowledge of carers can help make their loved one’s treatment and stay in the hospital more comfortable.
Providing support to carers also helps the person they are caring for, bringing clear benefits for health professionals as they work towards the best outcomes for patients, both during their stay in hospital and in avoiding unnecessary re-admissions following discharge.
Recognising and supporting carers as partners in healthcare has been a priority for several years, and some hospitals already have mature Carer Passport schemes in place to strengthen this activity.
The potential for learning from these existing schemes and spreading coverage throughout the UK is enormous.
What is a Hospital Carer Passport?
Encouraging family and friends providing care to identify as ‘carers’ can be one of the main challenges in supporting them and helping them navigate a confusing pathway between the NHS, social care and a complex social security system.
A Carer Passport in a hospital is a simple tool which identifies someone as being in a caring role for one of the hospital’s patients, involving them more fully in the patient’s care, and connecting them with further support.
A Hospital Carer Passport scheme will usually include provision of a card, badge or booklet which is easily recognised by staff, and which names both the carer and the patient. It should contain the details of the Carer Support Worker or Carers Lead where there is one, or a nominated member of staff such as a Dementia Lead or Head Nurse.
The scheme should explain what the carer can expect from hospital staff (the ‘offer’ to them), in accordance with the NHS Constitution commitment to carers being involved and consulted in the care and treatment of their family member or friend.
Hospital Carer Passport schemes tend to include offers to practically and financially assist carers, such as discounts on hospital car parking or inclusion in refreshment rounds.
By helping hospitals to involve carers in all aspects of treatment and care and offer specific concessions to carers, a Carer Passport scheme is effectively a way to let carers know they are welcome and valued in the hospital.