The Third Workforce

I usually write my blog at the end of the month, but December proved to be so challenging I couldn’t decide on one thing to write about. So many things felt important that I floundered, I couldn’t choose just one.  So I let the December blog go, and allowed myself time to write something that needed pondering, sifting and figuring out.

So much has happend in twelve months, I began this time last year with the title ‘Lemon Year’ and looking back it was indeed a Lemon Year, full of energy, brightness, it also had it’s fair share of sharpness that made many of us suck in our breath.

I have been fortnuate in the last year to meet and work with some fabulous people, and because of the area I work in, get up close and personal to the concerns of the workforce, as it struggles with the dual burdens of austerity and increasing demands. These burdens are not just impacting the public sectors, the third and private sectors are over-stretched too, so that huge swathes of the workforce is on the ‘periphery’ of who they really are, and in this place the effects of stress are damaging.

Up until the end of last year I believed I had a good understanding of concerns in many industries, then I was asked to develop a programme for a workforce I now call ‘The Third Workforce’, and while this workforce is massive (conservative estimate is 6.5 million in the UK) how many of us consider the stresses and strains that this workforce faces 24/7? Do you even know who I am talking about? I am talking about Carers.

Carers are the hidden workforce that dovetails between health and social care, often providing complex care at home, often without training, or support, or financial reward.  These people care for family, friends and neighbours, they are part of the community but frequently isolated from it because of the demands on their time.  The personal impact of the Caring role is huge on this workforce, mental and physical health suffers from a committment that requires superhuman endurance and resilience.

My time with Carers began by acknowledgeing them as a the ‘Third Workforce’, and working with them to co-produce a resilience and wellbeing programme that will support them and others in their caring roles.  In fact one of the big drivers to participation was the fact that the Carers wanted to help others, they wanted to share what they knew about resilience and wellbeing, they wanted others to know how they endure…..for years.

Drawing of 3 geese, with the title "We are a flock of geese"

The evidence gathered from the work demonstrated a huge increase in resilience and wellbeing for the Carers. This is hugely important as society needs Carers to remain part of the ‘Third Workforce’ or the impact on Health and Social Care will bring it to it’s knees. Although the project completed in November, the sustainability of the project has meant that the Carers have chosen to continue to meet. We have plans to roll the programme out with Young Carers, and Carers who, besides their caring roles, also have to manage formal/paid employment.

We do like to share what we have learned and part of that this year includes an invitation to teach others at the BMJ/IHI International Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare: Kuala Lumpur in August. If you would like to find out more about this work, and the co-produced Resilience and Wellbeing Programme for the Third Workforce please get in touch.

Cofion cynnes,

Dr Dee Gray