Roughly seven million people in the UK provide unpaid care to relatives or friends who could not otherwise live independently. The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) estimates that one in 20 patients registered with GP practices may be an unpaid carer.
Given the known impact of caring on carers’ physical and mental wellbeing, the RCGP has proposed that carers should be screened routinely for signs of depression and stress by GPs to ensure their health needs are not neglected. Supportive services for family carers are expected save money overall by preventing avoidable breakdowns in care at home, thereby helping to minimise preventable hospital admissions or transitions into residential care. It has been in estimated (back in 2008) that the UK’s hidden workforce of unpaid carers saves the NHS £119 billion a year.
About 40% of carers may be at risk of depression or stress because of their caring role. Carers UK agrees that GPs have a vital role in supporting carers. Proposed service enhancements for carers include:
- Improved GP access, with routine appointments and vaccinations scheduled at convenient times for carers
- Appointment of a Carers’ Champion in all GP surgeries.
- Maintenance of Carers Registers in GP practices.
- Audits to measure improvements in carer support.
Screen carers for depression, say doctors’ leaders. London: BBC Health News, May 11th 2013.
[A brief reference to this item features in Dementia and Elderly Care: the Latest Evidence Newsletter (RWNHST), Volume 3 Issue 7, May 2013].