What is the Supporting Carers in General Practice programme?
This programme, funded by the Department of Health, was set up in October 2011 and includes four programme partners (Carers UK, Carers Trust, the Royal College of GPs and the Queen’s Nursing Institute). Carers UK has recruited a team of 25 volunteer Carer Ambassadors who are making valuable contributions to their local communities across England, drawing on their caring, work and volunteering experience to complement and contribute to local activities aimed at improving services for other carers.
The programme aims are:
- To improve the early identification of carers by GP surgeries and other health professionals across England.
- To improve the support carers receive from their GP surgery and other health services.
- To improve the signposting of carers to local services.
- To raise awareness and knowledge of issues facing carers among GP practice staff and health and social care commissioners.
- To develop a model which can be commissioned locally following completion of the Department of Health funded programme.
Why was the Supporting Carers in General Practice Programme set up?
- Around 10% of the population in England (approx. 5.3 million people) have a caring role (e.g. looking after a disabled child or spouse, or caring for a parent, other relative, friend or neighbour).
- Carers often look to their GP as the first port of call for help and support.
- But nationally only around 0.5% of people registered with GPs are identified on Carer Registers, and much still needs to be done to improve the consistency of support for carers across the country.
- 83 per cent of carers report that caring has had a negative impact on their physical health and 87 percent that it has had a negative impact on their mental health (Source: Carers Week 2012).
- It is therefore important that GPs and healthcare professionals support those with caring responsibilities by helping them to identify themselves as carers, recognising the value of their contribution, referring them on to other services that could help alleviate the impact of their caring role and involving them from the outset in planning a care package for the person/s they care for.
Interim Evaluation Report Published
In September 2012 an interim evaluation report on the Supporting Carers in General Practice programme was published by CIRCLE (Centre for International Research on Care, Labour and Equalities).
Conclusions from the report were that, ‘Overall the programme has made some very positive contributions to the identification and support of carers through general practice: it has demonstrated the potential for carers to be identified and supported through a network of trained volunteers [Carer Ambassadors] and health professionals; it has brought together three very different organisations across the voluntary and statutory sector, facilitating partnership working between organisations and individuals; it has highlighted the many examples of good practice in relation to collaboration between carers’ centres (and schemes) and general practice; and it has demonstrated the challenges and difficulties of identifying and supporting carers, of collecting robust supporting evidence, of identifying and mapping change in terms of identification, referral and attitudes.
‘A number of recommendations for the future development of the programme overall and the individual projects within it have been identified which, if taken on board, will help to build on the progress that has already been achieved by the three organisations, in such a short period of time.’
What is the role of the Carer Ambassador?
Volunteer Carer Ambassadors collaborate with local health and social care organisations and the voluntary sector to complement and support local strategies and actions plans aimed at improving the identification and support of carers by GP practices. They undergo an interview and training before beginning their roles and contribute around 1 day per week of their time.
What can Carer Ambassadors offer?
- Extensive & diverse caring experience.
- Service user experience & understanding of local environment.
- Diverse work experience.
- Local volunteering experience.
- Communications & influencing skills.
- Passion for improving services for others.
What have the Carer Ambassadors achieved so far?
- 25 volunteer Carer Ambassadors have been recruited from across England and in some areas are liaising with GP Champions (recruited by RCGP) and Expert Practitioners (recruited by Carers Trust).
- Carer Ambassadors have been building relationships with local organisations and have instigated meetings to agree action plans for improving GP identification and support of carers.
- Some Carer Ambassadors have undertaken practical activities within GP practices to identify new carers.
- Carer Ambassadors have also given presentations at local carers’ forums, and have met with GPs and other practice staff to discuss improvements to the identification of carers and referrals to local carers services.
Recruitment of Carer Ambassadors