The GP practice is usually the first place that carers have contact with the NHS. Staff there are well placed to recognise that someone is, or is about to become, a carer. For this reason, at your surgery you will find a lot of information aimed at patients who are carers so that they can be identified and better supported by the GP and other members of the health team.
Let your GP know that you are a carer and ask if this could be registered on your medical record. All GP practices will have a carer registration form. As a carer you are entitled to a free flu vaccination and your surgery may also offer the following:
- some flexibility with appointment times, for both yourself and/or the person you care for to accommodate your caring situation
- agreement to share information about the condition of the person you care for (with their consent)
Carers are at a much higher risk of becoming ill themselves and your GP can help keep you fit and well by recognising the effects caring can have on your health, such as depression, stress, high blood pressure or back pain. Make sure you take advantage of the free NHS health checks if you are eligible for one and if not discuss any health concerns with your GP.
Many carers are inclined to ignore symptoms because they cannot contemplate becoming ill themselves when they have caring responsibilities. It is important that you look after your own health and accept any treatment that you need as, ultimately, you cannot look after someone else without first looking after yourself.
So be prepared to share with your GP how much caring you are doing and any health concerns.
Healthwatch have some guidance to help people get the most out of their GP appointment.
The relationship between GP and carer should be viewed as a partnership in care.
GPs can share information with you, about aspects of a treatment or medical procedure planned for the person you care for they can also offer advice on the skills you need as a carer, such as how to change a dressing or give medication.
However the GP cannot give out any information about the person you care for without having their signed permission. A form to do this should be available at your GP practice.
If you are aged 40-74 and don’t have a pre-existing health condition, your GP or local authority will invite you for your free NHS health check. Make sure you take up this offer to test your cholesterol levels and blood pressure and for advice on how to look after your health in the future. Find out more about NHS health checks on the NHS ‘One You’ website.
You can read about online GP services, and how to look after your own health amongst other things on the NHS choices website.
The NHS ‘One You’ website is full of information to help keep you well and healthy. There are tests you can try out and lots of ideas and tips for a healthier way of life.
Here are a couple of examples from the website of tools you can use in the privacy of your own home:
- find out what your blood pressure reading means with a simple tool. High blood pressure can raise your risk of developing serious conditions like heart disease and dementia
- if you’re worried about your hearing it’s easy to get it checked. An over-the-phone hearing check is available from Action on Hearing Loss on 0844 800 3838 (local rate call). This service is completely automated (you won’t have to speak to anyone) and anonymous.
GP practices are under increasing pressure to streamline their way of working so they have more time for patients. If the surgery has introduced a change that impacts negatively on you, let them know. They may not be aware of the difficulty this causes and they should try to find a way of reducing the burden on you.
Terry wrote to his surgery when some repeat prescription requests were rejected by the automated system because they were submitted too early. The practice manager offered to meet with him and came up with a solution. Terry said, “I understand now why they had to move to that system. I really felt the practice manager listened to me and did a lot to solve the problem”
This video from the NHS explains how your GP might be able to help you when you register with them as a carer.