Support for carers
With one in 10 people in the UK caring for someone it's vital carers get the support they need. Sarah Brealey finds out what support is available.
Being a carer can affect your mental and physical health. It's a big issue with nearly seven million in the UK caring for someone and the figure keeps rising.
Of those, 1.2 million people spend more than 50 hours a week caring and 60 per cent of us will care for another person at some point in our lives. It’s vital that carers get the support they need.
Over the past five years, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has been working to increase the recognition and support that GPs give to carers, with funding from the Department of Health.
More recently, nine GP carers’ champions were appointed in different regions to work with GPs, practice nurses and the bodies that commission local healthcare services.
An online platform, the Caring for Carers Hub, has been set up to help GPs find local information for carers, including details of nearby Heart Support Groups (BHF-affiliated meetings for heart patients and carers). The hub is growing as more groups join.
Unpaid carers save the NHS a lot of money. They deserve support
Dr Ann Mulroy, RCGP champion for London, said: “We realise that being a carer can have a big impact on mental and physical health and we want to prevent problems occurring. A lot of mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, and feelings of isolation, are more common among carers.
There are also physical issues such as back problems linked to lifting, or carers may neglect their own health because of their caring role.
“If by giving extra support to carers we can deal with an issue before it becomes a problem, that can help a lot. It can reduce hospital admissions and prevent breakdown of the caring relationship.”
Dr Mulroy said people may not always identify themselves as carers, but their roles are vital. “Unpaid carers save the NHS and social services a lot of money, and they provide a better service to the person being cared for. They deserve support.”
Where to get help?
If you are a carer, let your GP know so they can offer you relevant information and support, including a free flu jab every year. They may also be able to put you in touch with your local carers’ service.
The assistance these services offer varies around the country but can include help with claiming benefits, coffee mornings, personal training sessions and massages.
The Carers Direct helpline offers confidential information and advice. Call 0300 123 1053 or visit the Carers Direct website.
The Carers Trust has a directory of local carers’ services and more. You can also email [email protected] or call 0844 800 4361.
Find your local Heart Support Group or call the Heart Matters Helpline on 0300 330 3300.
Find RCGP information on carers support (aimed at healthcare professionals).