HomeSponsoredCaring for Carers during a pandemic: how best practice content can make a difference
Caring for Carers during a pandemic: how best practice content can make a difference
By Alison Lowerson, QCS, GP Policy Lead
Although it is becoming sadly familiar, when the UK government announced a third national lockdown last month, it was as if the depression and deflation that many had experienced had given way to a feeling of exhaustion.
But, if you think you’ve had it tough, spare a thought for the nation’s seven million carers. The last 10 months have been extremely challenging for them. Not only have they continued to provide continuous support to loved ones throughout the crisis, but have done so with limited help from the state.
The government needs to do much more to help them. Not just because it is the right thing to do, but the millions of unpaid carers save the state billions of pounds in social care costs.
In this Q&A, QCS’s Alison Lowerson reveals the practical steps that every GP surgery should consider when supporting carers, as well as the compliance protocols that also need to be observed.
Q) How can GPs help carers in these challenging times?
A) On a practical note, practices can add value by better identifying those who are carers to give them the best chance of getting the support that they need. Simply asking ‘Do you look after someone?’ can be a more effective question than ‘Are you a carer?’
So where do practice managers start? Firstly, I would recommend that Practice Managers look at the advice laid out by NHS England and NHS Improvement. It has recognised the challenges that GPs face in this area and it has produced a Framework of Quality Markers for supporting carers in general practice.
Q) What regulatory frameworks do GP practices need to be aware of?
A) As the GP Policy Lead at Quality Compliance Systems, our team specialises in creating industry leading compliance. It’s our job to keep abreast of all the latest developments in guidance, standards and compliance. We then use that knowledge to produce leading-edge content and best practice, which we break down into easily digestible policies and procedures.
But how do Practices create practical policies and procedures that are aligned to CQC guidelines?
When the CQC carries out an inspection, it will look at how effectively carers are supported when they consider the following key lines of enquiry:
C2: involving people in decisions about their care
R1: how do people receive personalised care that is responsive to their needs?
For Practice Managers, when making changes in the practice, or preparing for an inspection, the NHS Framework of Quality Markers document is a great place to start. The guide offers a series of practical ideas for improving how general practice can better identify and support carers of all ages. There are six quality markers and they are as follows:
How the Practice identifies and registers carers
How the Practice uses its carer’s register to support holistic carer health and wellbeing needs
How the Practice organises itself to understand and respond to the needs of carers
How the Practice makes it easier for carers to access its services
How the Practice communicates with, involves and informs its carers
How the Practice promotes a carer-friendly culture
Not only does the framework lay solid foundations in a practice, the CQC is likely to base its questions on the document during a face-to-face inspection or a telephone discussion.
Q) What best practice guidance can benefit GPs?
A) The NHS Carers toolkit also helps organisations to work together in identifying, assessing and supporting the wellbeing of carers and their families. It covers duties of NHS organisations brought about by the Care Act 2014 and the Children and Families Act 2014 too. It also includes numerous examples of positive practice that are already making a difference to Carers and their families.
Q) How can GP’s support the wellbeing of carers in their own workplaces?
A) Caring for someone, even when we are not in the midst of a pandemic, can be both physically and emotionally demanding. It also puts pressure on employees to balance their work and other responsibilities. Sadly, it is a balance that many struggle with. Carers UK says, for example, that one in six carers end up giving up work, or reducing their hours to look after their loved ones.
Practice Managers can help be monitoring the wellbeing of staff. Once it’s established that a Practice staff member is a carer, supervisors can better understand the difficulties carers may be facing. Practice Managers can then offer the right package of support, including providing the opportunity of home working or flexible working if possible. This not only demonstrates that the Practice is a responsible employer, but it can also have a positive effect in the workplace and on the delivery of patient care.
Q) How can QCS policies make a difference?
A) In addition to the Home Working and the Flexible Working Policies and Procedures, QCS has produced an Employee Welfare Checklist, which covers staff issues and concerns as well as identifying any support they may need.
Secondly, working closely with carers can promote a greater understanding of the challenges they face and providing much needed support can enhance working relationships. Practices should be raising awareness of caring and caring issues by supporting line managers and providing staff training, as well as reviewing policies such as the QCS Carers Policy and Procedure. Carers should be identified, especially in the workplace. They should also be offered opportunities to manage their caring responsibilities, and be signposted to external support.
Carers Policy and Procedure
Home Working Policy and Procedure
Flexible Working Policy and Procedure
Employee Welfare Checklist
To find out how you can join QCS, contact our compliance advisors on 0333 405 33 33 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.