It is estimated that 1 in 5 households have a carer and that if carers did not do the job they do, it would cost the NHS £119 billion.
With an increasingly elderly population and push to keep patients at home for longer, GP practices have a vital role in identifying and supporting carers.
There are some very simple steps you can take to make your practice more carer friendly:
It’s a good idea to add the following questions to your registration process:
Are you a carer?If so, would you like to be referred for a carer’s assessment? (Carers are entitled to a social services assessment, so practice can refer them to local social services for this)
Do you have a carer?If yes, please let us have their detailsAre you happy for your carer to be involved in decisions around your care and to have access to your medical records?
Train reception staff
Receptionists are the main point of contact with patients and their carers, they will also know many of your patients that are carers. Reception staff can provide informal support by asking them how they are and by supporting carers with suitable appointment flexibility and understanding
If carers are coded as such it makes it easier to add alerts to their notes:
|System 1 codes||EMIS codes|
|Is a carer||Ub1ju||918G|
|Has a carer||918F||918F|
|Is no longer a carer||XaL1Y||918f|
It is important to keep these codes updated so try to ensure that if someone’s caring status changes this is also updated on the record.
Inform receptionists about services that are available locally so that they can pass this information on. Local voluntary sector organisations who support carers may well be happy to come in and give a talk to staff.
Train clinical staff
Health professionals can make a huge difference to carers by asking them how they are and what support they need.
GPs should have a conversation with patient and their carer about consent to share records. Then the carer can be involved in management and treatment decisions. The carer will have a huge amount of information regarding the patient and should be recognised as an equal part of the consultation.
Full-time carers are more than twice as likely to be in bad health than non-carers. If carers are identified clearly as such in their medical record then it makes it easier for GPs and nurses to offer health promotion and encourage carers to look after their health.
Carers should also be offered health checks and flu jabs. If their carer gets ill, it is more likely the patient being cared for will end up in hospital.
Make information on local services for carers available in waiting room and on website.
Consider asking patients if they have a carer on any mass mailouts that you undertake, for example flu vaccination letters.
You can also add information for carers on the left hand side of prescriptions or in your newsletters.
Be a carer-friendly employer
Recognise that your staff may also be carers and that offering support where possible will help retain staff and make staff feel valued and respected.
Other larger scale ideas
The following are other ideas where practices can exand the support they provide to carers:
- Working with social services to provide information on personal health budgets
- Providing a benefits advice service for carers to help them access benefits they are entitled to.
- Working with the CCG to introduce a carers card which will allow health services to recognise carers if they pass through the system. This also enables healthcare staff to ask about the person cared for if carer has to go to hospital.
- Working with other health professionals to provide information and training sessions for patients (for exampe on manual handling, medicines management, benefits advice, health checks)
- Working with other local practices to develop a forum for carers to have a voice on local services and share information
- The RCGP has a useful carers site, which contains resources for carer support, including carer identification, a training DVD and the Supporting Carers Action Guide
- BMA Working with Carers: guidelines for good practice
- Carers UK: National charity providing information and support, and campaigning for better recognition for carers. Adviceline: 0808 808 7777 email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Monday to Friday, 10am - 4pm
- The Carers Trust (formerly the Princess Royal Trust for Carers): National charity providing information and sources of support, including online chat forums
- Information about Carers Week
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Fionnuala O'Donnell is a practice manager in Ealing, West London, and a CCG board member.