New checks for volunteer care workers

DEDICATED workers to identify voluntary carers who are out of their depth should be brought into hospitals, a leading charity has said.

Following a study across the area, the Princess Royal Trust for Carers said potentially thousands of people who cared for loved ones at home were missing out on key help.

By having people in hospitals who could home in on such examples, both the patients and the carers stood to benefit hugely, the organisation said.

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Its appeal has been backed by the Duchess of Hamilton, who cared for her husband the Duke of Hamilton at their home in East Lothian while he had dementia, until his death earlier this year.

The charity's verdict came after the two-year Moffat Project in hospitals such as the Western General and the city's Royal Infirmary, and took on board the comments of consultants, nurses and families.

The trial also placed workers in hospitals to act as advocates for those affected to see how it would work in reality.

Florence Burke, the director in Scotland for the trust, said: "The Moffat Project is a clear demonstration of how relatively small investments can have big results.

"It proves that employing carer support workers in hospitals can benefit not only carers through ensuring they got the support they needed, but also patients and hospital staff.

"As our population gets older, carers will play a critical and essential role in health care and we need to ensure they have the support they need right from the start.

"This is why continued investment in the service for carers should be provided by NHS boards."

Across Scotland, people who look after loved ones for no reward are thought to save the NHS billions of pounds every year.

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There are thousands of carers in and around Edinburgh in this boat, and it is feared many don't know what benefits and financial assistance are available to them.

As a group, voluntary carers already feel put upon with funding cuts at local authority level affecting the level of free care they can access.

Charities and non-profit support groups across the city are also struggling to make ends meet as the dire economic climate continues.

Kay Hamilton, who has been a long-term supporter of voluntary carers from her own experience, said she too had benefited from the pilot scheme.

She said: "The worker was extremely kind and helpful - he put me in touch with a social worker so I could find out about getting rails fitted to the house and he also directed me to my local carers' centre.

"This initiative helps patients too because it allows us to cope with caring, so I really hope that funding is put in place for carer support workers to continue to work in hospitals."