GPs need more incentives to identify carers, not fewer
One of the things we know about carers is that many often don’t recognise themselves as being one — in other words, they don’t realise that they are a carer. They don’t know about available help until quite late on, often after their own health and wellbeing has become badly affected.
Especially for adult carers, we know that the one service they are almost bound to come into contact with is GPs, if not for their own health then for the health of the people they are caring for. So it makes sense that GPS should identify carers and refer them to their local carers organisation for support.
That’s all they really have to do. It’s as straightforward as saying: “Well Mrs McGonigle, you’re doing a brilliant job of looking after your husband but I’m wondering whether there are things we could do to help you too. Did you know there’s a Carers’ Centre that can give you some help? Here’s the number. Why don’t you call them? And I can add you to my list so we can make sure we support you as a carer.” Sounds simple, huh?
Simple as it is, it often just doesn’t happen. GP surgeries get a payment for having a carers’ register. 10% of the population are carers — however, even when GPs are being proactive, it’s rare for a practice to have more than 3% of their list registered as carers.
Signs of progress
Across the country, Carers’ Centres and Crossroads schemes work with GPs surgeries to provide them with what they need to support carers better, and real progress has been made. The Government put some cash into this, and Carers Trust has been working with The Royal College of GPs and Carers UK to build better awareness.
For those of you who work for a Carers Trust network partner liaising with GPs surgeries, you can join our Facebook group where staff in similar roles share good ideas and support each other.
But things are changing. The indicator which means GPs get rewarded financially for having a carers register (QOF Management Standard 9 I believe) is being removed. Something similar will stay for carers of people with dementia, and it is suggested that they will also get a health check.
Getting GP practices engaged with carers
This is great, but what about everyone else? There are plans to put the requirement to identify carers in the outcomes indicators for Clinical Commissioning Groups but it’s not clear to me what teeth this will have, or whether practices will just be able to ignore it with impunity.
The current system isn’t great. It’s not well used, and it means GPs can identify a few carers, put them on a list and then do nothing to support them. But at least they do have to come up with some evidence at some point that they have met the outcome and they do it because there’s money attached.
It gives local carers’ organisations the hook they need to get GP practices talking to them. If the CCG outcome indicators have no teeth, that will be a step backwards. We need to know more.