Who looks after us when we are not well? We have the most brilliant health care professionals that make up the NHS. We can rely on the NHS from cradle to grave to look after our health when we need it. But the NHS is more than a faceless organisation – the NHS is made up of 1.3m carers – but who cares for them when they need it? Fundamental changes are needed in the way that NHS staff are treated, and the help that is provided to them, so that they, in turn, can look after us. Smart rotas which allow for staff to indicate their preferences to when they work shifts, via digital technology, can help staff to manage their work/life balance. We also need to place as much importance on the carers, as those who are being cared for. The other thing we need to do is to change the culture of the NHS in order to recruit and retain more staff.
These are the kinds of issues that come in front of me as health secretary. But as your local MP, and an as individual, similar issues come up with those in our community. At the beginning of March, the Carers Trust had an event in Parliament recognising the work and particular needs of young carers. I’m extremely grateful for our young carers in West Suffolk. They should be recognised for their important and compassionate work, especially given they often balance their caring responsibilities with their school work. These boys and girls who do so much for the family members they support, need our support, too.
There are many ways that we can help those around us with caring responsibilities. Whether it be a mother in our area who is struggling to cope with the relentless demands of a new baby, or someone who is looking after an elderly relative with dementia or someone for whom caring is a way of life because they need to look after a loved one with a chronic condition or disability – there are ways to help. We can offer our help with practical tasks or maybe it’s just a question of making time for a cup of tea and lending a sympathetic ear. What’s important is that we are aware that these are people are in our communities – they are our neighbours and friends and very often they are confined to their homes due to their caring responsibilities. We must reach out to them and offer our time and our compassion. It can make all the difference to those who do the vital work of caring for their loved ones.