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Government urged to ramp up efforts to identify carers in primary care

MPs have called on the Government to look at more effective ways of identifying carers in primary care, including developing GP ‘ambassadors' to champion their cause, in a major report on social care published today.

The report by the House of Commons Health Committee says the identification of carers is still a ‘major issue' despite GPs being incentivised through QOF to identify and refer carers for social services assessment.

It says around half of carers believe their health has been affected because of the care they provide, but the number being assessed by social services has fallen by 3% between 2009/10 and 2010/11.

Currently GP practices are awarded three points under the practice management QOF domain for developing a protocol for the identification of carers and a mechanism for the referral of carers to social services.

However, MPs said they were concerned that, despite good take-up for the QOF indicator, many carers do not identify themselves and are missed by health professionals.

They suggested that ‘more effective' ideas, such as RCGP pilots looking at using carer and GP ambassadors to support early identification of carers on GP lists should be rolled out wider.

The report concludes: ‘The Committee welcomes the Government's recognition of the importance of support for informal carers and carers' assessments.'

‘The Committee is however concerned that the effectiveness of the policy is too often undermined by the failure of GPs, social workers and others to identify carers.'

‘The Committee believes the Government needs to find new and more effective ways to identify carers in order to ensure that their needs are properly assessed and met.'

Dr Helena McKeown, chair of the BMA's community care committee, said: ‘The Health Select Committee is right to suggest that the care of older people has been hampered for many years by a lack of coordinated planning between health and social care services.

‘There is often confusion about who is responsible for a patient's wellbeing, especially as hard working carers and healthcare professionals face a wall of bureaucracy when trying to organise appropriate care. Cuts throughout the public sector are further hurting an already underfunded system.

‘Unfortunately the government's reforms are likely to further fragment care by promoting competition between service providers ahead of cooperation.  We need a set of proposals that fully integrates and funds social care so that we can deliver the service that older patients deserve.'