Strand 1. Involving carers and families in treatment, wellbeing and recovery

I feel included and welcome." Carer

Coming into hospital can be particularly distressing, especially if admission is made under the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003. As carers are usually involved in the day-to-day life of the person they care for, it’s critical that this involvement does not stop when that person has been admitted to hospital.

Often a carer may be the first to notice signs of deterioration – sometimes even before the person they care for – and this can be helpful during hospital admission as carers can provide a rich source of information about what does and does not help. Involving carers can also help services to ensure they protect an individual’s rights to a personal and family life. By seeking a carer’s advice about the specific needs of the person they look after, services may be better able to engage both the patient and their carer in treatment plans and future discharge arrangements.

Carers have the right to be consulted and have their views taken into account with regard to care, treatment and safety plans, but only with the cared-for individual’s consent (unless they are lacking capacity). Services can use the Carers Trust Scotland’s ‘Triangle of Care’ to promote carer involvement and also explain the importance of this involvement to the patient themselves.

Maintaining family contact, especially with children, is often an essential factor in supporting the improvement of a patient’s wellbeing in hospital and, when appropriate, suitable areas in the ward, hospital or treatment setting should be provided to enable this to happen. In addition, maintaining friendships and social or community connections should also be encouraged when they’re important to the patient, their treatment and their recovery.

Putting guidance into practice

Carers have the potential to be vital partners in the provision of modern mental health care and clinical teams must be able to demonstrate that initial and ongoing contact with both the patient’s carer and their family is established and maintained.

Ward staff should

  • identify carers and acknowledge the essential role they play at first contact with the patient or as soon as possible thereafter
  • be ‘carer aware’ and be trained in carer engagement strategies
  • ensure that policy and practice protocols are in place regarding both confidentiality and the sharing of information
  • ensure that defined post(s) are in place for members of the ward team with responsibility for carer liaison
  • make a ‘carer introduction to service and staff’ available with a relevant range of information across the care pathway
  • provide a range of carer support services

For more information, please refer to our From Observation to Intervention (PDF) guidance document.