GPs want to work more closely with carers in their communities but are being hampered by financial cutbacks, says the British Medical Association (BMA).
Updated guidance from the BMA’s Community Care Committee published yesterday (Wednesday 11 July 2007) says extra resources would help GPs identify more carers.
The guidance is supported by HRH The Princess Royal, the new President of the BMA, whose organisation, The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, is the largest provider of support services for carers in the UK.
According to the BMA, there are more than six million carers in Britain, and each year nearly 2.5 million people will start or finish caring, meaning identifying new carers is a continual process.
This, says the BMA, is complicated by the fact that many carers are reluctant to acknowledge their role and feel that asking for outside help could be seen as failure.
Carers are more likely to suffer emotional or stress-related illnesses or sustain physical injuries as a direct result of looking after someone. This means their first point of contact is often with a GP, who is therefore in a prime position to direct carers to the services available to them.
The BMA guidance says the new GP contract has been a huge success in incentivising those practices choosing to take part in extra quality initiatives to develop protocols to identify carers.
Since 2003, many GP practices have chosen to introduce a voluntary identification scheme. Yet turning these into formal registers would require extra resources.
However, the new guidance suggests this would be of benefit to patients, and could also lead to shorter appointment times, a reduced number of inappropriate queries and potential reductions in GP prescription costs, such as antidepressants.
However, the guidance advises formal registers would only work if primary care organisations and local authorities prioritise the resourcing of formal carer strategies for practices.