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Carers can now spend more time alongside loved ones in Dorset’s community hospitals, thanks to a new scheme on the wards.
Dorset HealthCare has introduced a ‘carer’s passport’ system, giving people hospital access outside of regular visiting hours and providing vital extra support to patients as and when they need it.
The passport was piloted at hospitals in Weymouth, Portland and St Leonards, near Ringwood, last year. Initially open to carers of people with dementia, it proved so successful it has been rolled out to all 11 community hospitals in the county.
And it is open to anyone who cares for a relative, partner or friend with on-going physical or mental health problems.
Under the system, carers identify themselves on arrival at the hospital and are given a badge, or ‘passport’, which allows them to stay beyond regular visiting hours – providing reassurance and additional help for the person they are caring for.
Hospital staff welcome carers throughout the day and into the evening, though overnight stays will be at the discretion of ward nurses.
Alison Low, Senior Sister on the Fayrewood Ward at St Leonards Hospital, said: “It makes a huge difference to the care we can provide when we have inside knowledge of a patient from their loved one. It helps us to meet their individual needs more effectively, and also gives the patient additional support at what can be a difficult time.”
Mary Karchel, who lives near Sherborne, was the main carer for her late husband Peter, who had Parkinson’s Disease. Last year, he spent the final months of his life at the Yeatman Hospital in Sherborne, where Mary was able to visit him as often as she wished.
“The hospital staff involved me in the care, invited me to give my opinions and at every junction would inform me of any changes in care or things they would like to do,” she said.
“I could go in at any time – day or night, it didn’t matter – and that was a great support in looking after Peter.
“I used to visit him in the afternoons but he was often asleep and l couldn’t chat to him. So a nurse would often call me in the morning and say: ‘he is awake now – come and stay as long as you like’.
“We had the most wonderful help and care.”
The carer’s passport idea was sparked by John’s Campaign, a national initiative founded in late 2014 following the death of dementia patient Dr John Gerrard.
His daughter Nicci faced restricted visiting access during his final days, and began campaigning for more access for carers, a move backed by NHS England.
Julia Jones, Co-founder of John’s Campaign, said: “It's thrilling to have all of Dorset HealthCare’s hospitals making this offer to carers, and we hope it will encourage more hospitals around the UK to get on board with our campaign.”
Talk to any member of hospital staff to find out more about the carer’s passport scheme. More information is also available online at: www.dorsethealthcare.nhs.uk.