Carers’ Lounge at Bedford Hospital wins national award

Carers' Lounge co-ordinator, Christina Offord, and Carers in Bedfordshire chief executive officer, Helen Satterthwaite, with the award for the Carers' Lounge.
Carers' Lounge co-ordinator, Christina Offord, and Carers in Bedfordshire chief executive officer, Helen Satterthwaite, with the award for the Carers' Lounge.

A charity which offers support and help to visitors at Bedford Hospital has won a national award.

It was one of two Bedfordshire organisations which saw success at the Patient Experience Network National Awards.

The Carers in Bedfordshire charity run the Carers’ Lounge at Bedford Hospital and it won the category of Support for Caregivers, Friends and Family.

Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (BCCG) was runner-up in Commissioning for Patient Experience with their project to involve service users and carers in choosing a new provider of mental health and specialist learning disability services. Both were presented with their awards in Birmingham on Wednesday, March 2.

The Carers’ Lounge is run in partnership with the hospital and is supported by Bedford Borough Council and since it opened in 2012, more than 5,600 unpaid family carers looking after a loved one have been contacted through the service.

The lounge gives carers of any age visiting the hospital a safe, confidential, non-judgemental space where they can find support, information and advice.

Staffed by lounge co-ordinator, Christina Offord, and a team of carers’ support workers, benefits advisors and volunteers, carers can access support Monday to Friday between 11am and 6pm.

The Carers’ Lounge team work with staff across the hospital to identify and support carers as well as with organisations including Age UK, the Alzheimers Society and the Stroke Association to ensure carers have access to all the information and support they need.

Christina said: “We are thrilled to have won this award. What a wonderful way to highlight how important it is to support carers in a hospital environment.

“I’m hoping that other hospitals will learn from Carers in Bedfordshire’s partnership with Bedford Hospital and improve support for carers in their hospitals.”

Nina Fraser, director of nursing and patient services congratulated the Carers Lounge, and added: “This award gives recognition for the fantastic work that Christina and the many volunteers at the Carers Lounge do on a daily basis. Their hard work and dedication has meant that many potentially isolated carers have had the opportunity to share their experiences and received advice and support during difficult times.”

Hospital is often the place where people find themselves in a caring role for the first time, leaving them bewildered and not knowing where to turn. Bedford Hospital and Carers in Bedfordshire have plans to develop the service, including increasing support for carers through the discharge planning process to help patients and carers stay physically and emotionally well.

Inspired and influenced by the success of the Bedford Hospital Carers Lounge, one of the first of its kind in the country, Carers in Bedfordshire have opened a similar service in the Luton and Dunstable Hospital. Carers Lounges have opened in Stoke Mandeville and Milton Keynes Hospitals.

Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group came runner-up for a pioneering way of inviting mental health service users, young people, those with learning disabilities and carers to take part in independent selection panels as it prepared to redesign local services and find a new provider in the biggest mental health contract re-procurement in the country.

The contract was awarded to East London Foundation Trust in April 2015 and it is first time that panels made up exclusively of service users and carers have had a direct say in the choice of provider. Judges recognised that this innovative approach gave a voice to patients and placed their experience at the heart of an innovative new service.

Alison Borrett, Lay Member of BCCG’s Governing Body for Patient and Public Involvement said: “I am thrilled that BCCG has been recognised for the commitment it made to involve service users and carers when re-commissioning mental health and specialist learning disability services. They took the time to listen to the experiences of patients to ensure that the new service reflected their views – and I am so pleased that the team involved have been able to showcase their work through the PEN awards.”