David Cole CygnetIn this guest blog, David Cole, chief executive of Cygnet Health Care, outlines the work the provider is doing to help carers understand what to expect when a loved one is admitted to an inpatient mental health hospital.

Caring for someone living with mental ill health brings unique challenges. It is estimated that there are up to 1.5 million people in the UK caring for a relative or friend with a mental health problem. This means that 1 in every 40 people is a mental health carer.  

Being admitted to a mental health hospital can be a confusing and stressful experience – both for the person receiving treatment and their loved ones. At Cygnet Health Care, we recognise the need to make admission to our hospitals as stress-free as possible, and the importance of ensuring that service users and their carers are involved with clinicians and nurses in planning and reviewing the services they receive. After all, we all share the same goal of supporting the service user in the best possible way. 

Supporting carers’ involvement is a key part of NHS England’s Commissioning for Quality and Innovation objectives for 2014-15. Cygnet has developed several initiatives and programmes to ensure that carers are involved with their loved one’s treatment and recovery process from start to finish. Working with our service users, we have designed a series of Welcome Guides, which provide an overview of what life is like at a Cygnet facility, including what to expect from the first few days in the unit and an example therapy timetable. This helps to prepare service users and their families for what lies ahead. 

A pack specifically for carers has also been designed. Twelve service users from Cygnet Lodge Brighouse came together to develop a Carers Pack after one highlighted how carers often feel ‘out of the loop’. The pack helps to explain a service user’s mental health treatment, outline the day-to-day running of a unit, as well as any relevant procedures in place there. The booklets are filled with insights that service users have identified as being important for carers to know, such as the names of staff members, relevant contact details, meal times, legal rights, length of stay expectation and visiting times.

When carers of service users at Brighouse were asked about whether they would appreciate receiving a Carers Pack, the answer was an emphatic ‘yes’. Providing carers and people close to service users with something such as this can help them better understand what their loved one may be experiencing and, crucially, what support they might be able to provide. This also helps the service user to know that there is an entire team behind them.

We are also hosting an event dedicated to carers on Saturday, July 5 at Cygnet Hospital Beckton. There will be facilitated discussions and workshop activities led by multi-disciplinary staff and service users to inform and support carers on recovery-orientated practice. 

Driving these events and initiatives forward is our recognition that support from carers, friends and family can be hugely important in strengthening recovery and helping to prevent a relapse. Carers help the UK save about £119 billion every year and providing appropriate support for carers would not only increase this, but also improve health and wellbeing outcomes for the people they care for. 

The contribution and sacrifices of these individuals should be celebrated and recognised, and that’s why Cygnet Health Care is proud to be supporting Carers Week 2014. We hope that we can all take the time to celebrate and support the carers that we know and rely upon.

Cygnet Health Care is the leading outsourcing provider to the NHS of acute and intensive care mental health services.