Carers should be monitored for mental health problems

Carers should be routinely screened for depression and mental health problems as they often “neglect” their own wellbeing, the Royal College of General Practitioners has warned.

The college has recommended creating a register of the UK’s 7 million carers to help the 40% of them who experience depression or psychological problems.

It said holding routine appointments with carers and ensuring family doctors monitor those on a carers’ register could tackle the “hidden” problem.

Dr Clare Gerada, RCGP chairwoman, told BBC Breakfast: “Carers often neglect their own healthcare needs and in many cases it is only a matter of time before they themselves become ill. They are at risk physically and emotionally with stress-related illnesses but it can be hard for them to admit that they are struggling.

“Unfortunately at the moment as with the rest of the health service, GPs are heaving under the workload and what this report is saying is that we have to target resources where they are most needed and they are most needed with carers.”

Gerada said carers were a “critical asset” who should be protected as “they already save the public purse £119bn a year”.

She said: “If carers fall ill you lose two patients. You lose the person they are caring for and also the carer so it makes financial sense to keep carers well.”

The RCGP has drawn up a nine-point checklist as part of new online guidance which also includes appointing a carers’ “champion” in all GP surgeries, and carrying out audits to measure improvements in carer support.

• The headline on this article was amended on 11 May 2013. The original referred to care workers, instead of carers.