Carers rate pharmacy the most supportive service

Sixty-seven per cent of carers view pharmacists as supportive, compared with 57 per cent for GPs
Carers UK also highlights “positive results” of pilot to increase referrals in pharmacies

Pharmacies are the most “carer-friendly” healthcare service, according to charity Carers UK.

Sixty-seven per cent of carers viewed pharmacies as supportive, according to a survey published to coincide with the launch of Carers Week today (June 8).

In comparison, 
only 57 per cent of 4,572 respondents to the survey - which ran from February to April - viewed GPs as “carer-friendly”. Forty-one per cent saw hospital services in this way, Carers UK said.

The charity also revealed the “very positive results” of a pilot led by charity Carers Trust and PSNC to increase the identification and support of unpaid carers in pharmacies. The initiative ran across 39 pharmacies in 10 areas of England between November 2014 and February 2015 and resulted in pharmacy staff identifying 247 carers who were referred to local support organisations for information and advice, Carers UK told C+D.

The Carers Trust pilot was designed to “test the idea of LPCs, pharmacies and local carers services working together to identify, support and refer carers”, Carers UK said. Staff in participating pharmacies underwent training to increase their confidence to do this, it said.

A “key success factor” in the pilot was the development of relationships with participating organisations and pharmacies by “ongoing telephone, email and face-to-face support, together with more formal updates and email bulletins”, it said.

Really encouraging

Julia Ellis, Carers Trust development manager for primary care, said the outcomes had been "really encouraging...even though the pilot coincided with the extremely busy period of Christmas and the pharmacies who took part received no additional funding".  

"Without doubt, today’s community pharmacy is ideally placed to reach ‘hidden’ carers and link them up with much-needed support,” Ms Ellis added. 

Carers UK said the pilot was part of a programme of work funded by the Department of Health and the Supporting Carers in General Practice programme - an initiative by Carers UK, Carers Trust and the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Only 8 per cent of respondents to the survey rated pharmacy as “not carer-friendly at all”, compared to 21 per cent who viewed GPs in this way and 28 per cent who rated hospitals as unsupportive, Carers UK said.

Sixty-five per cent said the lack of support in their area made it more difficult to look after the person they cared for, while 61 per cent said it was having an impact on their own health, the charity added.

How do you support carers in your area? 

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Brian Austen, Senior Management

In my opinion NHS England and Health & Wellbeing Boards have failed to recognise the support that Carers as a Group require. I would welcome any news on Pharmaceutical Needs Assessments that identified the need to support Carers. I haven't read any, and I've read many. My experience is that all NHS bodies believe they are offering an adequate service to Carers and there is no need for change or improvement. This is a great example of commissioners being out of touch with the people they are meant to serve. Shame on the NHS! I would like to add that I am not a Carer, none of my family or relatives is a Carer and thankfully none of us need a Carer. I come from a provider background where I have always promoted how commissioners and providers could improve their Caring for Carers, but most of the time commissioners and providers have not recognised a need, given it any priority or been unwilling to make material changes and improvements.

Brian Austen, Senior Management

Is this 'successful pilot' continuing? There are over 6 million unpaid Carers in the UK. Is an average of 6.33 patients per participating pharmacy over 4 months a success? 71% were referred to GPs where only 57% of carers thought they received a carer friendly service. What happened to the other 29%? What interventions were made directly by the pharmacies? Please note GPs have been 'identifying' and 'supporting' Carers for at least 10 years as part of their contract. A list of legislation, policies and commitments: Equalities Act 2010 NHS improving quality - commitment to Carers Dec 2013 NHS England commitment to Carers May 2014 NHS Five Year Forward View committing the NHS to find new ways to support Carers and to build upon the rights created by the (Care Act which came into force in April 2015) All very good but the problem is that the NHS doesn't seem to be able to make much tangible and lasting improvement to the support of carers. These statistics are horrendous when you think about the commitments that have been made to improve NHS support for carers over the last 5 years. Carers contribution to health and social care is immense but is undervalued by those responsible for policy and implementation. The truth is health and social care services are failing Carers.

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