Carers attend conference to make the case for better GP support

On 23 May a group of 11 carer volunteers attended a conference organised by the Royal College of GPs. The main aim of the conference was to discuss the critical role that GPs and primary care teams can play in supporting carers and those they care for.

The carers who attended have been recruited as Carer Ambassadors by Carers UK to contribute to a Department of Health funded programme which also involves the Royal College of GPs and Carers Trust. The Carer Ambassadors will be involved in local activities which aim to improve the identification and support of carers by GPs.

The conference heard from Care Services Minister Paul Burstow MP who said: ‘For everyone who needs care, there are the carers. The sons and daughters, the brothers and sisters, the mums and dads who give up so much of their own lives so they can make the lives of those they love that bit better. There are already around 5 million carers in England and there will be far more in the years ahead. It is the responsibility of the government, of the medical professions and of social care to support them and, yes, to engage with carers’ experience and recognise their skills and their dedication. That is what I hope we will do.’

Two of the Carer Ambassadors, Lucia Dedear from Gloucestershire and Larry Gardiner from Oxfordshire, also spoke at the conference about their caring roles and their work so far as volunteers. Their speeches showed how their skills combined with their passion for improving services for carers, were the real strength behind the volunteer part of the programme.

There were further speeches from Dame Philippa Russell DBE (Chair of the Standing Commission on Carers), Professor Nigel Sparrow (Chair, Professional Development Board, RCGP), Dr Moira Fraser (Director of Policy, Carers Trust) and Michael Shann (Carer Ambassadors Project Manager, Carers UK) along with workshops highlighting good practice in engaging with GP practices from across the country.

Michael Shann from Carers UK said : “We need significant improvements in the identification and support of carers by GP practices. There was a strong consensus at the conference that everyone needs to work together, at national and local level, if we are to make that happen. There was a recognition that GPs play a vital part in supporting carers through very testing times in their lives. We heard some great examples of GPs supporting carers well. It was also acknowledged that GPs are particularly busy at the moment due to changes in NHS commissioning structures, but these changes may provide opportunities for many more GP practices to improve their support of carers.”