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Hospital trust goes digital to support carers through lockdown

Over 20,000 unpaid carers in Southampton have been left with little respite due to national lockdown regulations. With statistics from the last census, it is estimated that one in eight people in the UK provide some form of care for a relative, friend or neighbour. This number will have undoubtedly increased during the COVID-19 crisis with many families being left without their usual support services.

Staff at University Hospital Southampton have been working hard and creating digital services to continue to provide an invaluable lifeline for carers. As part of the national awareness week Carers Week, which takes place between 8 and 14 June, we’re taking this opportunity to highlight the support options available for carers in the Southampton area.

“This week allows us to shine a light on the amazing work that carers do on a daily basis,” said Jackie Petley, the Trust’s dedicated carer experience lead.

“Here at University Hospital Southampton, we have a range of support and resources available to help carers in their roles and in terms their personal wellbeing.”

With many providing over 50 hours of unpaid care a week, self-care and looking after their own wellbeing is incredibly important for carers as they often have little time available for themselves. This comes at a time when many people across the country are feeling the mental health effects of the national lockdown.

Speaking about Jackie, one carer said: “You’re the first person to ask how I am, and it makes such a difference.”

Jackie has only been in her role for just under a year but has been focused on further embedding the NHS carers’ strategy into the Trust. She said: “The strategy has seven principles, including addressing carers’ support needs and ensuring there is proper support in place. My focus is to bring this to life here at the Trust”.

With lockdown in place, it hasn’t been possible for Jackie to meet carers in person as she usually would. To keep in contact, she has set up an online version of the Carers’ Café.

“The Café has been very popular,” said Jackie. “It’s a chance for carers to get together online and discuss anything that has been on their minds.”

“It’s a chance to connect and hear what other carers are experiencing. It’s also an opportunity to share useful resources to help their wellbeing, such as links to online art galleries, theatre productions and tips on mindfulness.”

There’s also a new peer support group for carers in the community on Facebook. The group is an opportunity to meet people in similar situations, share experiences and gain support. Carers can join the group by visiting the UHS Facebook page.

Jackie added: “There is a real opportunity to go digital after the pandemic as we can utilise online tools to get together more often.”

Find more information and resources for carers on our carers pages.