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Support for carers must be backed with resources

RCGP responds to Labour’s pledge for carers

Jo Carlowe

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Labour’s pledge to support carers must be backed up by appropriate resources in general practice.

This is the message from Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, giving the RCGP’s response to Labour’s announcement today on supporting carers. 

“Carers are a hidden army in the UK who save the NHS billions every year - and GPs recognise that many will have unmet health needs themselves,” said Dr Baker.

“The GPs’ role in keeping carers safe and well is an important one and the RCGP has developed a wealth of resources to ensure that GPs have the tools necessary to identify and support them – and raise awareness of carers’ specific health needs.

“Offering health checks to carers, should they want one, is something that we would encourage but it is essential that a scheme of this magnitude is backed up by the appropriate resources in general practice.”

She added: “We currently have a chronic shortage of GPs across the UK and those we do have are already working themselves to the bone. With an estimated 1 in 8 people in the UK being carers, this would potentially mean giving in excess of 6m health checks a year – this will simply not be possible with the resources currently available to us.

“GPs and their teams are making 90% of all NHS patient contacts for just 8.3% of the budget. We already make 1.3m consultations everyday – 120,000 more a day than we did five years ago. 

“We urgently need at least 8,000 more GPs in England alone by 2020 to cope with growing demand – and more investment in general practice so that we can provide more and better services for our patients and their carers.”

Liz Kendall MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Care and Older People, today set out the Party’s plans to improve support for England’s 5.4 million unpaid family carers.

The package of measures includes a new duty on the NHS to identify family carers and a new right for carers to ask for an annual health check.

In addition, the measures include offering families a single point of contact with care services, so they don’t have to battle different parts of the system.

And ensuring the funding currently identified for carers’ breaks is properly ring-fenced.

Other measures set out in the pledge include consulting with employers, trade unions and carers organisations on how to improve flexible working for family carers, recognising the transport costs facing family carers, by including family carers in the groups who can be eligible for hospital car parking concessions and abolishing the bedroom tax – which hits 60,000 carers.

Liz Kendall MP said: “Too often carers have to battle all the different services to try and get the support they need. One in three family carers who are in paid work have to give up their job or reduce their hours because they can’t get the right help to care or flexible working hours.

“Most unpaid carers don’t have enough time to pay attention to their own health, and many don’t come forward for help or get any breaks.”

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