Sarah (not her real name) works in admin at PRH and for the last decade she’s also been looking after her husband who has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The condition means that what he’s able to do is quite restricted and he can become extremely breathless. On three occasions he has become ill with pneumonia.
“My manager has been great,” she says. “There have been times over the years when I’ve just had to disappear and she’s said, ‘Just drop everything and go.’ Her support has been the biggest help.”
This year Carers Week is 10-16 June. Estimates put the number of BSUH staff, who also have an unpaid caring role, at around 1,000, potentially affecting all aspects of their life - health, job, finances and social activities.
“One of the main issues,” says Avril Harrington (pictured), Carers Wellbeing Support, Princess Royal Hospital Group Lead, “is that people who are looking after someone don’t see themselves as carers, so they don’t seek out advice or information.
“It’s important that staff who are carers are aware of the support that’s available and that they don’t miss out on vital services.”
The impact on anyone who is caring for someone can be big. And it can also be hidden. There’s still a degree of sensitivity around being a carer, and some may be reticent to mention this to colleagues or managers.
Sarah has gone to the Colleagues as Carers group at PRH and found it useful. “It was helpful to see people in different situations. You realise you’re not alone, that there are other people who are also looking after someone.”
She would encourage people who are carers to let their managers know. “I think they should at least tell their line manager, because there may be times when they’ve suddenly got to up-sticks and leave work. And it’s better they’re aware of this and know it could happen.”
Contacts for PRH are: www.carerssupport.org.uk, tel. 0300 028 8888 email firstname.lastname@example.org. For Brighton and Hove: www.carershub.co.uk, email email@example.com, tel.01273 977000 and East Sussex support Care for the Carers, tel. 01323 738390 email firstname.lastname@example.org.