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A new scheme to strengthen the role of carers in looking after people with mental health problems has been introduced across Dorset.
Dorset HealthCare has signed up to the Triangle of Care approach, which aims to improve communication between health professionals, service users and their carers – sharing knowledge to help make the right decisions and aid recovery.
Carers have a unique understanding of a person’s mental health history, needs and conditions, and this initiative will provide them with more engagement and support from staff in hospitals and out in the community.
Dorset HealthCare is one of a number of NHS Trusts nationwide to gain membership of the Triangle of Care programme, after providing evidence of existing good practice. And the Carers Trust charity will monitor its progress in developing this approach.
Phil Morgan, the Trust’s Mental Health Recovery and Social Inclusion Lead, said: “We felt it was important to sign up to the Triangle of Care to ensure we offer the best possible experience for people who access our mental health services, and their families.
“We see this initiative as an integral element in continuing to create a culture which not only focuses on the individual accessing our services, but also those who look after them.”
This was a joint initiative between the Trust's mental health and participation teams, and was delivered in partnership with Rethink, the Dorset Mental Health Forum, and the Dorset Mental Health Carers Project.
Dorset HealthCare provides a range of community and in-patient mental health services across Dorset, including Bournemouth and Poole. It delivers care and treatment for conditions such as depression, schizophrenia and eating disorders, as well as dementia and mental health problems relating to pregnancy and childbirth.
Marianne, from Weymouth, took unpaid leave from her job for six months to look after her daughter Lauren, who has been suffering from depression and other mental health issues for around six years. Recalling her experiences as a mother and carer, Marianne believes the Triangle of Care will make a huge difference to parents in particular.
“Lauren’s health and wellbeing went downhill very quickly. She became very isolated and felt she changed as a person, and as parents we had no idea what was happening and weren’t prepared,” she said.
“I soon found myself making important decisions about her treatment, and this was extremely daunting as I didn’t have a medical background or know anything about mental illness. I remember feeling quite isolated myself looking after her.
“The Triangle of Care will be a lifeline to carers and give them the chance to seek advice and support in making big decisions. Having a health professional to call on who understands your situation and the pressures you face will have a big impact.”
Lauren, 25, is now a mother herself and is training to become a peer specialist for the Dorset Mental Health Forum.
Dorset HealthCare Chief Executive Ron Shields said: “The Triangle of Care provides us with the opportunity to make working alongside and supporting carers everyone’s business, and to be able to evidence systematic and sustainable progress.
“What has been essential for us in our approach is to enable staff and carers to work together so that it is far more than a paper exercise, and that it leads to changes and improvement for people who access our services, their families and also for staff.”
There are now plans to implement the Triangle of Care model in other services across Dorset HealthCare.
For more information about support and advice available for carers through Dorset HealthCare, go to www.dorsethealthcare.nhs.uk/patients-and-visitors/carers