A new package of services can be offered in GP surgeries in England to help “hidden”, unpaid young carers, it has been announced.
NHS England has published proposals for GP practices, including priority appointments for carers, home visits, additional mental health checks, and ‘double appointments’ for the carer and those they provide care for.
It follows research from Barnardo’s and Carers Trust, which revealed the challenges that young people face when they combine caring role with their education.
It is estimated that up to one in five secondary school students provides some level of care for a parent or sibling, with many of these not disclosing their family circumstances and responsibilities to teachers, friends, GPs and other health care professionals. This leads to their own health deteriorating, with up to 40% experience mental health problems.
The measures, backed by Carers UK, Carers Trust, CQC and the Children’s Society, mean GP practices can now offer more tailored services for carers, based on national proposals and assessed against six ‘Quality Markers’, to ensure carers have access to high quality support by their local GP practice.
Dr Neil Churchill, director for experience, participation and equalities at NHS England, said: “Thousands of children and young people provide nothing less than life-changing care for their family and deserve in return the best possible support from the NHS and other public services. No young carer should feel they are struggling to cope on their own.
“The responsibility of giving care can take a real toll and our Long Term Plan will deliver care for carers that matches the commitment so many young people give their family day in, day out.”
Giles Meyer, CEO of Carers Trust, said: “Young carers routinely tell us that GPs often fail to recognise the health problems that arise from their caring role. That’s where these Quality Markers come in. They have huge potential to really help GPs identify and support carers of all ages within their practices, as well as refer them to specialist support in the community.”
Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK, added: “Identification of carers of all ages by NHS staff could make a real difference. These measures should help get more carers connected to the right support, as well as help them with important contingency planning for emergencies.”
Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan welcomed the proposals. The NHS is also working with young people to develop ‘top tips’ for GPs, which will address areas such as how to identify young carers, talking to them about looking after their own health, and how they can support them through social prescribing.
The top tips will be designed by a diverse group of ‘health champions’ – young carers selected from around the country – and ideas and feedback on what should be included will be given by some of the 1,800 young carers attending the Children’s Society Young Carers Festival later this month (June 2019).