NHS Operating Framework fails even to mention Carers Strategy: Time for Plan B

It’s never easy judging success, just witness the surprising winner of this year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award. Now-a-days, it’s not what you put in or maybe even the way you do it, it’s the result that matters. And you cannot hide from results.

This year, the focus of my work has been trying to lobby Government regarding Primary Care Trusts’ (PCTs) use of the £50m allocated to provide breaks for carers. The desired outcome was to make the NHS Operating Framework for 2010/11 more explicit in its guidance to PCTs regarding supporting carers. This was our goal.

plan b in fridge magnet letters

Carers cannot afford to be the loser again

To do this, we thought we needed to show that PCTs are not using the money as intended. So, we asked the local carers’ organisations of The Princess Royal Trust for Carers and Crossroads Care networks to tell us what was happening in their local area. It was clear there was confusion and sometimes a denial about the money and thus support for carers was not being increased.

We told Government, but they did not seem convinced…

So we asked our local networks to get their PCT to fill in a questionnaire giving financial details. Responses were not forthcoming so we then decided to submit the questionnaire under the Freedom of Information Act. During Carers Week, MPs questioned Government using our information and we wrote to the Chief Executive of the NHS, but both remained unmoved.

In September, we got widespread media coverage of our preliminary results showing PCTs were not using the money to increase support for carers. Then at the Party Conference, we spoke to Andy Burnham who said he wanted to speak when he got back from Conference.

While waiting, we published our report showing that only 23% of the £50m was used to increase support for carers. National TV, radio, newspapers and websites covered the story and it was the focus of a Health debate in the House of Commons.

Surely, they would listen now?

The meeting with Phil Hope was encouraging and two days before the Framework would be published, Burnham in a Commons debate said he was considering strengthening the Framework in relation to carers. The day it was due, I was glued to the Department of Health website. It popped up and I stuck “carers” into the search.

I was gutted and colleagues couldn’t believe it.

The Operating Framework does not even mention the Carers Strategy or that an allocation has been given to provide breaks. In my eyes, and those of others, it is not more explicit than last year’s. That was our goal and it is results that matter. We have a responsibility and in this we failed. I am sorry…

So now plan B. We will lobby commissioners, Strategic Health Authorities, Oversight & Scrutiny Committees, the Care Quality Commission, local authorities – anybody who will help us persuade PCTs to increase support for carers. The desired result? More than 23% of this year’s £100m is used to increase support for carers. Carers cannot afford to be the loser again.

Take care



December 23, 2009 - Posted by | Health | , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Hi Gordon,

    This govt response may interest you…

    Carers will continue to be losers whilst govt ( any party), fail to fully recognise the foundation that family/unpaid carers are.They talk about long term strategies, welfare reform,green/white papers for social care,a national care service, etc etc etc. All they ever do is talk…….

    Yet none of the above will be sustainable without fully supporting carers.As time goes by and more care services are handed to the private sector, more and more pressure will be placed on families.

    Local authorities are struggling now with budgets,cutbacks are inevitable.Once again it will be some of the most vulnerable within our society that will suffer.

    Comment by Rosemary | December 23, 2009 | Reply

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