What can health and social care professionals do to support Carers?
1 in 9 adults in Kent are Carers looking after a family member, partner, friend or neighbour, so it's likely that if you work in health or social care services you will be coming across Carers regularly.
Many Carers find they are unable to look after their own health or social needs because of the amount of time they spend caring. Looking after yourself as a Carer is important. The earlier Carers access services, the less their caring role impacts on their own health and well-being.
As a GP, health or social care professional you have an important role to play in:
- identifying Carers
- helping Carers to feel more valued
- improving the health and well-being of Carers
- making services more Carer-friendly.
A CQC inspection at Hamstreet Surgery in Ashford recognised the steps that were being taken by the practice to identify and support patients who are Carers.
Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (KCHFT) has over 3 million patient contacts every year. KCHFT has introduced a number of initiatives to support Carers.
The GP practice at Canterbury Health Centre has appointed an ex-nurse as its Carers’ Champion to run Carer support groups and one to one sessions.
“Carers are unsung heroes supporting our patients. As GPs, it’s really important that we’re made aware of our patients who are Carers to ensure they get the help they need and deserve. It's imperative that Carers prioritise their own health to remain fit to do what can at times be gruelling and exhausting. In our practice, we make sure Carers know they are entitled to a free flu jab and a Carer’s Assessment.”
Dr Helen Terrell, GP, Coxheath, Maidstone
What you can do to support Carers
- Identify Carers early – routinely ask if a patient or client looks after someone who couldn't cope without their support (is a Carer), and record this if they agree to it. Ask how being a Carer is impacting on their lives.
- Encourage patients or clients to take up a Carer's Assessment. These are available to all adults who are currently or intending to look after an adult.
- Take into consideration and value the knowledge that a Carer has about the person they care for when you’re providing care, treatment or organising care plans.
- Don’t automatically assume that a Carer can provide all the care needed for the person they care for, particularly when discharging patients home from hospital. Most of the acute hospitals in Kent have a specialist worker on site to provide support to Carers whether they or the person they care for is the patient.
- Be aware of what Carer support is available in your area and signpost or refer Carers into relevant services as early as possible.
- Look at the processes and systems in your setting and ask yourself if they are Carer-friendly not only for patients/clients but for staff who may be combining paid work with being a Carer.
- Distribute Kent Carers Matter leaflet - Supporting Carers - what health and social care professionals can do by email to your staff and add it to your intranet if you have one.
- Contact the Carer organisation in your area to run Carer awareness sessions or to get support with making your setting more Carer-friendly.
- Share your knowledge about Carers, their needs and how to support them better with your colleagues whenever you can.
“I have neglected my own health problems for fear I would be hospitalised and therefore unable to care.”
What GPs can do to support Carers
The responsibilities of Carers mean they are more likely to suffer from ill health, stress, depression, poor self-care or physical injuries due to incorrect moving and handling. GP practices are in touch with Carers every day, either as patients or on behalf of those they care for. An estimated 10% of any practice list will be Carers, but many of these Carers will not be known to their GP.
As part of the Care Quality Commission's review of GP practices in the UK, GPs are now assessed with regard to their understanding and support of Carers.
Increase Carer identification
- Identify patients that are Carers by asking if they ‘look after someone’ as many don’t use the term Carer. If your new patient registration form only asks 'Are you a Carer?' think about revising it or providing a definition.
- Ask patients with long term or acute conditions which suggest they might have a Carer, to identify their Carer.
- Run awareness-raising campaigns in your surgery to encourage Carers to self-identify
Improve healthcare for Carers
- Encourage eligible Carers to have their annual flu vaccination.
- Screen Carers regularly for depression and other health problems.
- Offer flexible appointment times, priority time slots or home visits for Carers.
Improve support for Carers
- Note whether someone is a Carer in their patient record and regularly ask them how they are managing their caring and whether they need support with it.
- Organise Carer support groups or advice surgeries.
- Support Carers by providing information and signposting – leaflets, posters, reception screen, website, social media.
- Organise surveys to gather Carers’ feedback about services and their satisfaction with them.
- Refer Carers to services for more specialised information, advice and support.
Improve practice policies and systems to support Carers
- Develop a practice policy for Carers and appoint a Carers lead or champion.
- Involve Carers and your patient participation group.
- Ensure the whole practice team, clinical, non-clinical and community nursing staff are involved.
- Develop and maintain a Carers' register in your practice.
- Develop close links with local Carer organisations, social services and the wider voluntary sector.
“It’s very difficult to arrange health appointments to coincide with very short free windows of time.”
Resources for health and social care professionals
Care Quality Commission
Information for all health and social care professionals including how to make your service more Carer-friendly - https://professionals.Carers.org
Care Quality Commission
Kent Community NHS Foundation Trust
Royal College of GPs