Action for Carers Surrey
Enabling carers to have a voice and realise a life outside caring


NHS at 70 - A Carer's Perspective

The NHS has been supporting the nation for 70 years delivering world class health care to every member of society.

Caring and the NHS

Action for Carers Surrey has a particular interest in the NHS turning 70 not least because Jamie our Chief Executive's mother was one of the very first nurses to join the NHS.

jamies mum in nurse uniform-cropped2.jpg

Yvonne Gault (pictured) qualified from Southampton General Hospital in 1947 and joined the NHS in 1948. At that time caring was not recognised as a unique role but was more commonly viewed as the duty of family members (usually women). Pioneers like Mary Webster, who campaigned from 1954 to have her position as a carer recognised, did groundbreaking work to shine a light on the responsibilty carers took on board. Gradually the benefits carers brought to their familes, communities and the NHS became better understood.

But carers are frequently referred to as 'the silent army'; the very nature of their caring role means that they don't have time to flag the challenges they face and are frequently overlooked as a result. While the NHS unquestionably brought about a sea change in the way health care has been delivered, carers have often been left to pick up the shortfall when primary care has failed to meet needs. Many have expressed frustration with the way the NHS has treated them, their own knowledge and experience of a patient may be given second fiddle to medical training when critical care decisions are being made.

In 2014 NHS England released its Commitment to Carers document which acknowledged the importance of carers to the NHS and outlined its goals to support them. Anecdotally carers tell us that there are improvements, for example paediatric consultants might call to find an appointment which suits a carer, but many still find it hard to get their voice heard.

In short, there are signs that carers' needs are being more readily recognised and the NHS is making strides to support them but there is still some way to go...