As part of Carers Week, Wales Carers Alliance, (a grouping of 16 national voluntary organisations working together to improve the lives of carers) and the Royal College of GPs (Wales) held a joint reception in the Assembly attended by senior policy makers and politicians. The aim was to raise awareness of the importance that GPs and other primary care practitioners have in identifying and signposting carers to sources of support and advice.
In the Carers Week report that was issued on Monday 18th June – In Sickness and In Health, 43% of respondents in Wales have put off medical treatment because of their caring role; 82% stated that caring has had a negative impact on their physical health; 83% stated that it had a negative impact on their mental health; 62% of whom stated that this was because of a lack of practical support.
In attendance were the Chairs and Vice Chairs of Local Health Boards who commission GP services, and representatives from the Royal College of GPs in Wales as well as Wales Carers Alliance Members.
Jean Humphreys, a distance carer for her elderly mother spoke with passion about the important role that GPs have to ensure that carers are recognised and given appropriate information and advice.
Dr Preece a GP from Pencoed spoke about what his practice does to support carers. As an example if a carer attends the surgery with the person they look after, then they are prioritised and are seen within 10 minutes, they also have a call back system so if a carer calls they are called back before the end of the day, they also have an interactive website and repeat prescriptions can be ordered without the need to attend the surgery. All of these things are quite small but significantly help carers to cope.
Angela Roberts, Chair of Wales Carers Alliance said: “GPs and community based health services are crucial to ensure that carers get the information they need to access sources of advice and support to enable them to protect their own health and well-being. The replacement care that unpaid carers provide equates to 7.7 billion in Wales. If carers don’t get the information, advice and support they need to maintain their own health, the health service ends up paying the price for an additional patient. GPs can also help carers by identifying and recognising their caring role and being flexible with appointment times ensuring that they are made at times when it is most convenient for carers to attend”.
Dr Paul Myres, Chair RCGP Wales said: “A significant number of people registered with GPs act as carers. While attention is focussed on supporting the needs of the person being cared for, a carer’s own health is often overlooked. The RCGP in Wales is pleased to be working with the Wales Carers Alliance to raise awareness of the importance that even small changes in the way in which GP practices work can make a real difference to the health and well-being of carers”.