More than six million people in Britain are providing unpaid care for relatives and friends. This responsibility inevitably takes its toll on their own health, and carers are relying increasingly on their GPs and practice teams for support.
This has prompted the College to join forces with The Princess Royal Trust for Carers in a two-year partnership, Carers in Practice, the main objective of which is to highlight the role of carers and help raise the standards of their healthcare.
The project aims to support family doctors and their practice teams in offering practical support for carers. It covers five broad areas:
The first stage of the project has been to produce two new separate checklists for practice staff and carers, both of which are available from the College's website: www.rcgp.org.uk. Each checklist has been designed to act as a trigger for doctors, nurses and receptionists in identifying patients responsible for providing care.
Surgeries are being encouraged to run "Carer Identity" programmes – allowing practice teams to include relevant information on patients' records and tailor their support according to individual needs – while patient-carers themselves are also being encouraged to take the initiative and talk about their caring responsibilities when visiting the surgery.
The next stage will be to develop an online toolkit to support primary care teams, as well as doctors in training. This will be based on the methodology used in the RCGP Quality Team Development Programme, enabling practices to aspire to good standards of services and care.
Our two-year partnership is critical to the support and recognition given to the nation's carers. Our aim is to improve the relationship and communication between the primary care team and patients who are carers. In the long term, the partnership should also help reduce overall costs to health and social services.
By working with The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, we can be a major contributor to providing a better deal for carers, and ensuring that both patients and carers receive the highest possible quality care they so deserve.