Carers identified?

6.4.2 Assessment services - public and private

Page last updated: 2010

Initial contact with a specialist mental health service may come about through a variety of mechanisms including:

  • Referral from the GP
  • Presentation to an Emergency Department of a local hospital
  • Contact with a mental health crisis team
  • Referral to a private psychiatrist and
  • Police intervention.
All mechanisms provide potential opportunities for identification of carers.

Many Emergency Departments have introduced specific responses to concerns regarding the appropriateness of this environment to manage people who are distressed and agitated, however to date little has been done to use this as an opportunity to identify carers.

It is not unusual for people referred, or being brought to an Emergency Department to be accompanied by family members or friends. This provides an ideal opportunity for identification of carers and initiation of a partnership approach to the care of the person with mental illness.

For other people their first point of contact may be with a specialist mental health crisis team or the police. The contact seeking assistance is generally made by a relative or friend of the person with the mental illness. This also provides an opportunity for identification of carers.

Alternatively, many people are accompanied by family or friends at their first presentation to a private psychiatrist. The family /friends will generally wait in a waiting room during the appointment. The completion of the new patient information form, the initial interview itself and the time spent in the waiting room all provide opportunities for identification of carers. It also provides an opportunity for practice staff to engage with carers and to provide them with a carer information pack. Practices may consider the establishment of 'carer corners', places where coffee and additional resources could be available, including information regarding support groups. Top of page Suggested national protocols for identification of carers in assessment settings

It is recommended that the following protocols to identify carers during assessment processes are distributed widely to public and private sectors for feedback regarding the feasibility of introduction on a progressive basis.
  • Generic information encouraging self identification by carers to be provided in waiting areas on electronic and paper notice boards including posters and leaflets.
  • New patient questionnaire data systems to be expanded to include carer identification by a series of questions phrased in a positive manner designed to encourage consumers to recognise who their carers are and the importance of their ongoing contribution.
  • Triage processes to ask appropriately worded questions emphasising the positive aspects of family/carer participation in all aspects of care.
  • Interviewing doctor/nurse to ask appropriately worded questions to determine identification of carers and their level of involvement.
  • A specific member of staff to be allocated responsibility for maintaining procedures for identification of carers – a carer specialist or champion.
  • Information packs to be provided for both consumers and carers that include rationale and encouragement for identification of carers.
  • 'Carer corners' be established in waiting rooms.