Introduction: Family carers provide vital practical and emotional support throughout the trajectory of palliative care. A growing body of evidence however points to the negative impacts of care-giving on carers’ physical, emotional and social health and wellbeing. The need to ameliorate the burden on carers whilst supporting them in their caring role is reflected in the National Palliative Care Standards. Standard 3 stipulates the need to assess carer needs and preferences, independently of the client, and for this assessment to inform service provision, support and guidance to the carer.
Aim: to report analysis of the use and evaluation of the Carer Support Needs Assessment Tool (CSNAT) in a community-based palliative care service and plans for future development.
Methods: Evaluation of CSNAT, using mixed methods, analysed statistical data on take-up and satisfaction, as well as developing planned interviews with carers and staff.
Outcome: While use of CSNAT has been a change in practice, it has highlighted for clinicians the unique needs associated with being a carer. And carers themselves appreciated having their needs accommodated separately to the ill person. This evaluation has strengthened the awareness that carers are the concern of all team members.
Discussion: The use CSNAT has enabled recognition of the carer role and improved understanding of carers as a core component of a holistic service response. It ensures that carers are provided with an avenue to have their needs and concerns identified and addressed by a responsive service model. Further work is required to encourage staff to build carer needs assessment into existing work, rather than an additional formal assessment.
Further work is required to develop specific carer policy, which is aligned with Standard 3.
Conclusion: Carer’s needs are broad and ascertaining them ought to be responsive and flexible. CSNAT allows clinicians to better assess and address the needs of the carer, which are constantly changing. Adopting CSNAT arguably reduces variation in clinical practice and promotes a systematic approach to assessment and care delivery.