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Mental health carers support service: Down area


An innovative new pilot project to provide support to carers of those who have mental health difficulties is now available in the Down area of the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust.

The South Eastern Local Commissioning Group has commissioned the ‘Mental Health Carers Support Service’ for local pharmacists to identify carers who provide support and offer them the opportunity to have a carer assessment.
Tony McCusker, Mental Health Services Manager from the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust said:

“Many people carrying out a caring role do not identify themselves as ‘carers’ and some can provide this type of support without recognition. As a result, carers may not be known to healthcare professionals or voluntary organisations that can provide information, advice, respite options, and other types of support. Caring for someone with a mental health problem can put carers under a lot of pressure and one in ten of all carers in Northern Ireland suffer from ill-health themselves. Early identification of people with caring responsibilities for those who have mental health difficulties is therefore of vital importance to support the health and wellbeing of carers, as well as the relatives or friends they care for.”

Under the Carers and Direct Payment Act 2002, carers are entitled to request an assessment of their needs to enable them to continue in their caring role, even if the person they care for does not want to engage with services. A carer assessment does not impact on benefits or work arrangements and is not an assessment of an individual’s mental health or ability to care – it is simply a tool to review how a carer is affected by their role and to identify any available support services that can help.

Louise Seymour, community pharmacist and member of the South Eastern Local Commissioning Group said:

“Transforming Your Care recognises the need for more practical support for carers and pharmacists are ideally placed to support the health and wellbeing of carers. Community pharmacies are often the first point of contact with health and social care services and studies have shown that people interact with community pharmacists on average 12 to 15 times annually, often using the same pharmacy each time. Through this new pilot service, pharmacists in the Down area will help to identify carers for people with mental health difficulties who are not already known to services, link them in with existing support services and facilitate access to a carer needs assessment.”

The pilot service will operate until 31 March 2015 and is a partnership between the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust, the South Eastern Local Commissioning Group of the Health and Social Care Board, local pharmacists in the Down area, and voluntary sector organisations Cause and Mindwise that work specifically with carers of people who have mental health difficulties.

Information leaflets about the ‘Mental Health Carers Support Service’ will be placed in local pharmacies and anyone who feels the pilot may apply to them can make themselves known to their pharmacist. The pharmacist, with the consent of the carer, will forward their name and contact details to the Community Link Worker employed by the South Eastern Health & Social Care Trust who will inform the carer of statutory, voluntary and local community based services which they may wish to avail of for support. The Community Link Worker will also offer to complete a ‘Carer Support and Needs Assessment’ with them to help identify how they can be supported in their role.

If you live in the Down area and you feel you could benefit from this service, please contact your local pharmacist for further information.