Who cares for the carers?

David Mowat, Minister for Community Health and Care at the Department of Health, highlights the Carers Strategy, and how it gives carers the recognition and support they deserve…

As a constituency MP I meet a whole array of people who need my help and support: a woman caring for her husband who has dementia, or a father with his autistic child. They form part of a silent army of carers, who do what they do because they love the person they care for. Many don’t even see themselves as carers.

With an ageing population, the demands on our health and care system are growing. The incredible job that these unpaid carers do, supplementing services and giving their own time to provide much-needed support, will only become more important. But who is caring for the carers?

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RCGP Research Paper of the Year: Informal carers face double disadvantage with poorer quality of life and poorer patient experience in primary care

A large section of the population – approximately 10% of adults in England – care for others;

Informal carers experience a double disadvantage of poorer health-related quality of life and worse patient experience in primary care compared to those without caring responsibilities, according to a study of data from nearly 200,000 carers presented to the Royal College of General Practitioners. The study, from the Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research at the Primary Care Unit, was awarded the Royal College of General Practitioners Health Service Delivery and Public Health Research Paper of the Year 2016 on 28th September 2016.

A large section of the population – approximately 10% of adults in England – care for others; and carers are already known to experience worse physical and mental health that non-carers. But this study, originally published in May 2015 in BMC Family Practice, was novel in investigating the primary care experience of informal carers as patients themselves, rather than focusing on their role as carer for another patient. Carers reported worse patient experience than non-carers, particularly in terms of access, with those carers who were male, younger, non-white, or living in a socially deprived area rating their experiences the most poorly.

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Social care is running on empty – but technology can make a difference

There is no single solution to the challenges facing the sector, but technology enabled care can save cash-strapped councils money

It would be easy, but misleading, to say that social care is in crisis. Somehow in many parts of England the system staggers on, using devolution to its advantage. A number of councils have adopted improved ways of working.

However, the sustainability of the system is increasingly being called into question. Whether it’s the Adass budget survey, research by the King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust, or my report for the Carers Trust on the Care Act, the message is broadly the same: the system is running on empty, and people are suffering the consequences.

Why has this not exploded into a major political issue? Most MPs acknowledge that social care is unfinished business, but this has not translated into sufficient political pressure. At a basic level, this is because most people make no distinction between social care, care and support and what the NHS does. It still comes as a shock to many families that social care is not free. Most people make no care plans because they have discounted the chances of ever needing it.

Today the most visible advocate for social care funding is the NHS England boss, Simon Stevens. He told the NHS Confederation conference earlier this year that social care, rather than the NHS, should be at the front of the queue for financial aid. Of course there is a healthy dose of self-interest in this. Health and social care are two sides of the same coin – underinvest in one and you undermine the other.

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