Keep your finger on the pulse

Birmingham health centres pull out the stops to help carers stay healthy

Doctors and healthcare professionals across three GP practices in Birmingham have joined forces to help identify unpaid carers in the community and ensure that they get the get the support and care that they need.

The three practices, all run in partnership with Virgin Care, are the Summerfield GP and Urgent Care Centre in Winson Green, Finch Road Surgery in Lozells and The Kingstanding Community Practice in Kingstanding.

The initiative, led by Virgin Care, is called ‘Time to care’ and is being launched to coincide with Carer’s Week – a UK-wide annual awareness campaign.

It is estimated that there are currently six million unpaid carers in the UK and many have yet to be identified by local healthcare services. More than 80 per cent of carers say that their caring role has damaged their health. However, only 25 per cent of carers receive a Carers’ Assessment and only 14 per cent say that it has led to a change in support.

By identifying carers, healthcare professionals can ensure that they stay healthy and are able to access appropriate support networks. During Carer’s Week, the practices will be hosting stands with balloons and T-shirts to raise awareness of the role that carers play and to try to encourage those who need support get the help that they deserve.

The initiative also aims to work with young carers who are often very difficult to identify. This is usually because young people either don’t know that they are a carer, or feel that there is a stigma amongst their peers of being identified as a carer.

In addition to the work during Carers’ Week, all three practices are already offering the following support to carers:

  • priority appointments for carers;
  • double appointments for carers and their cared for person;
  • using the computer system to identify carers and offer support;
  • providing carer MOTs (often the carer just comes in for their cared for person’s need, not their own); and
  • young carer’s workshops designed to get young carers together for mutual support and to listen to young carers’ needs and to help the practices understand, and remove, the barriers that stop young carers seeking the support they deserve.

In addition, each centre has appointed a carer champion. This is either a healthcare assistant (HCA) or nurse who is given time specially set aside to develop services and design them around carers’ needs. They will be working on initiatives to identify carers and treat them in an appropriate and timely manner as well as helping them find support networks and services.

Carer champion Wendy Springer said: “We know there are carers out there who need our support, yet often they are unknown to us and they go without the support they deserve.

“Like everyone else they get ill but there is enormous pressure on them to stay healthy. Time to care means offering a service that fits around their lifestyles by making it easy for them to be seen at one of our practices.”

Local GP Ian MacDonald said: “Over one in eight of the adult population is a carer and three in five of us are likely to be a carer at some point in our lives.

“We believe they are the unsung heroes of the NHS, saving around £119bn per year and providing them with the support that they need at the earliest possible point can improve the health and quality of life of both the carer and the person that they care for.”

Cheryl Jones, outreach manager at the Carers’ Trust, said: “There has been a track record of innovation that Virgin Care has been involved in. They have a real commitment to doing something different and that is what is needed.

“In my experience as a professional who so happens to be a carer, I see health services that may be excellent clinically but are rarely focussed on carers’ needs. A partnership that addresses issues from both sides and recognises the role and value of carers can only have positive outcomes for the health and well being of all.”

Click the image links below to view our Carer’s Week case studies:


Click the link below to listen to an interview with Carers Champion Wendy Springer:

Carers Champion interview – June 2012


Press enquiries to:
Russell Elliott, Virgin Care. Tel: 020 7380 1794; 07855 806 093

Notes to editors
About Virgin Care

We provide local NHS services, so that the care our patients receive is free at the point of deliver.

We currently provide over 120 NHS services nationwide with a focus on community and primary healthcare. NHS services provided by Virgin Care include:

  • Walk-in and urgent care centres
  • Community-based services, such as sexual health services
  • Community diagnostics, such as ultrasound services
  • GP practices
  • Specialist services, such as GP services for asylum seekers and homeless people
  • Community health services, which includes a wide range of services such as treating long term conditions, breast screening and running community hospitals
  • Prison healthcare

Time to Care is a new initiative to identify carers in the community and provide them with the support that they need.

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