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Fact sheet

Helping carers back to work

It has been said that some carers are "running a hospital in their own homes". Carers can spend years looking after a family member with a long term illness or disability, and develop a range of valuable skills for instance:

  • Knowledge of the effects of specific disabilities and illnesses
  • Experience of providing personal care – washing/dressing/assistance with toileting
  • Moving and handling skills
  • Management of medication
  • How the Health Service works – and the particular roles of different professionals within it
  • Assistance with therapeutic regimes
  • Enabling independence
  • Providing for particular dietary needs
  • Managing and using equipment – e.g. wheelchairs, hoists, bath aids
  • Specialist communication skills – e.g. sign languages or communication with dysphasic patients
  • General communication skills
  • Assertiveness (in negotiating with different professionals and service providers)
  • Complex management skills

Many of these skills could be usefully applied in a variety of roles in the National Health Service.

When caring ends, many people would not wish to pursue a career in the caring professions, but there are a number of carers who might wish to look for work in an environment where they felt they had some existing skills. Those who are still actively caring may also wish to consider working in the Health Service.

With demographic change and the increasing size of the elderly population, the NHS will need to look more creatively to meet its manpower needs. Carers and former carers are a possible resource. By making links with local Carers' Support Projects, and arranging guaranteed interview schemes, for example, opportunities for shadowing existing staff, NHS managers can increase the pool of possible staff recruited from this source. Some Carers’ Support Organisations run specialist projects to help carers to build up their confidence and skills, so that they can return to work. Working with them will meet both their agenda and yours.

You can find details of Carers Trust local carers' services on the Home page of the main website.