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Fact sheet

Referral of carers

Referral is the process of passing on the information that someone is a carer to an agency or an individual, with a view to offering them some kind of assessment and support or a service adjusted to meet their needs.

It is important to ask the carer what kinds of support they feel they most need. They should be given information abut, and encouraged to consider, types of support which they may not have previously considered. They should feel that their role as a carer is recognised and accepted.

Types of referral

The following list of types of support to which carers might be referred is not exhaustive, but does give an indication of what may be available. The carers should be referred directly by the practice, or given the information to enable them to make contact themselves.

Statutory assessment of needs

All carers who are caring regularly and substantially are entitled to a Carers Assessment from the Local Authority. In order to have access to local services, most Local Authorities will require that carers have an assessment first.

Advocacy and/or financial information

This is usually available from the local carers’ centre or the Citizens Advice Bureau if there is no local carers’ centre. The number of the local Benefits Agency could also be important.

Short breaks from caring

These may be arranged by the Social Services Department or a carers’ centre/voluntary agency.

In Cambridgeshire, the Primary Care Trust has funded a ‘breaks on prescription’ scheme, under which the GP can supply a voucher to carers who need a break. The voucher can be exchanged with Crossroads Care who provide replacement care.

One to one support

This can usually be arranged by the carers’ centre, or by providing access to services that may be already available in the practice.

Carers support group

This may be offered by the carers’ centre. In some cases such groups are based at the GP practice itself.

Inclusion on a carers’ mailing list

For mail outs of information about support, events and services that may be available locally to carers – often produced by the local carers’ centre.

Health support/health checks

This should be available from the practice itself, perhaps in special sessions for carers.

Greenwich practices offer well carer health checks and the PCT has produced a carers health check risk assessment action sheet.

Condition specific information

Carers of people with certain conditions will be dealing with particular issues. For example, those caring for people with learning disabilities often encounter physical aggression and may also provide a high level of personal care. Organisations such as The Alzheimer’s Society have information specifically for carers, helping them understand the course their caring role may take.

Information or training on helping them care safely

Evidence suggests that providing training to carers can improve both health and quality of life outcomes for the person cared for and the carer. Getting up in the night and physical tasks such as lifting, are perceived by carers to cause ill health. Areas that carers may need training in may be moving and handling, first aid, nutrition, managing stress, exercise, relaxation and administering medication. Your local carers' centre may provide this training or be able to work with you to do so.

Referring to your local carers’ centre

Before referrals to a local carers’ centre can become commonplace, a relationship between the Centre and the practice needs to be established. Once this is done, referral will be a quick, uncomplicated process and carers’ centres are eager to work with GP practices. You can find your local carers’ centre at www.carers.org

Carers Resource (Harrogate & Craven) have practice agreements and provide a comprehensive service for their practices.

As a practice nurse in Harrogate put it:
“It’s an excellent service. Patients I have referred in the past year have often come back looking as if a great weight had been lifted off their shoulders. They appreciate having someone focus on them and their needs. It saves me loads of time having someone else to provide emotional support and give the practical ongoing support we can’t provide”.

Referring to other GP practices

This is relevant where the carer is registered at a different practice to that of the cared for, and the carers role is identified by the practice of the cared for.

Carers in Herts conducted an extensive study in their area, which resulted in the publication of a report highlighting the benefits of efficient carer referral and the potential reduction in hospital admissions as a consequence. We are grateful to Carers in Hertfordshire for providing us with the full report which you can download below:

Identifying and Supporting Carers Through the GP Surgery - What Difference does it make? (137 KB)

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