GPs can be a lifeline for carers

Note: The following post has been contributed by Moira Fraser, Director of Policy at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers

Trust me, I’m a doctor
Well I am, but not a doctor of anything useful. A PhD can come in handy as a doorstop or fly-swat but it’s not much good if anyone’s having a heart attack. It a good job I do know some real ones who I hope would be a damn sight more useful in an emergency.

For carers, a decent GP can be more than just useful. They can be a lifeline.  Of the UK’s 6 million carers, hundreds upon thousands go unrecognised and unnoticed. Many don’t even know they’re a carer themselves. However the one place you can pretty much guarantee a carer will end up fairly regularly is a GP surgery – if not for their own health issues, then for the person they care for.

We’ve worked with the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) for a number of years now, because they get how important this is. If you don’t look after carers, sick people get sicker. It’s as simple as that. And more to the point, the carer gets sick too and then you’ve got two people using NHS resources instead of one.

All this seems obvious. But still it’s often not done. How many times have you been told you can’t have information about how to help someone manage their condition because it’s confidential? How many times has someone said to the doctor “no really, I’m fine” when you know they’re really not fine at all? How many times tried to help but felt you’ve not been listened to? And how often have you needed to go to the doctor yourself but just not been able to – because you can’t get out of the house or you’re just too dog tired?

We’ve just published a new Action Guide for GP practices, jointly with our friends at RCGP, to help GP practices be more carer friendly.  Just listen. Think about depression. Think about family finances. Signpost to services. Plan for emergencies.

Not hard, not complicated.

Just needs GPs to take carers seriously and do it, working with their local Carers Centre.
Trust me.
Read our guide here


November 17, 2011 - Posted by | Health | ,


  1. Whatever happened to the Carers Flag Scheme as proposed by the PRT almost a decade ago ?

    I , and several other carers , signed whatever at the behest of the Suffolk branch of the PRT at a one off meeting in Oulton Broad in …. 2002 ? Coincidently , more reps from the PRT than carers in attendance …. eyebrows were raised when I wheeled my caree as I could only attend by bringing my caree with me.

    I would add that , at a previous surgery in Thorpe Bay , Essex , one of the doctor’s was instrumental in adopting such a scheme once he had calculated how much the scheme would save the Practice when implemented …. both in time and labour.

    Comment by Stephen Knight | November 17, 2011 | Reply

    • Hi Stephen and thanks for your feedback and your involvement. Over the years, we and Carers Centres have looked at lots of ways of imporving how GPS support carers- many Carers centres now have workers who liaise with GP practices to try to make sure they prioritise carers. We’ve just been successful in getting funding from the Government to develop this further.Also, working with the Royal College of General Practitioners we have been running the GP Caring for Carers Awards to highlight the GP practices that do a good job, in the hope that others will follow their lead. We’re always looking at what else we can do – but has to be practical and doable. There are a lot of GPs out there so we need to use resources wisely! All suggestions always very welcome!

      Comment by moirafraser | November 22, 2011 | Reply

  2. It really upsets me that Carers across the county and country do not have an equal opportunity at GP Surgeries. Each GP Practice is different they are private businesses contracted by the NHS. This can effect the quality of the service and conditions of the waiting rooms. We put ourselves into the hands of people we know little about, we are subjected to a waiting room where people are scared to utter a word unless someone breaks the ice. Some communication by staff would ease the pressure on people. Why don’t they ask if we are Carers and hand out information then.
    Why don’t practice staff engage with people instead of hiding behind a screen or hole in the wall and creating an ‘us and them’ situation. Surgeries are the most intimidating locations, many a time I have been driven to tears under the pressure of sitting in a group of silent people. Planning what I am going to say in such a short time scale. Its no wonder my blood pressure rises when I go there.
    So Carers apply to be a Carers Ambassador in your area and create a change in the relationship between GP & Carer.

    Comment by Daphne Sanderson | February 21, 2012 | Reply

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