Skip to navigation

Fact sheet

Identifying carers

We have identified four basic approaches to identifying carers, all of which you can access by clicking on the links at the bottom of the page and in the menu on the right.

General points about identifying carers

  • Staff should be trained and encouraged to avoid stereotypes. Carers can be young, can be parents, and can have learning difficulties and so on. 42% of carers are men and 18% of carers look after more than one person.
  • There may be more than one carer involved with a particular patient. Those carers may have very different needs and views. They may even be in conflict with each other;
  • There will often be ‘mutual caring’ arrangements. An elderly couple will often be carers of each other, as will an elderly parent with an adult child with a learning disability;
  • Sometimes the patient may not be keen on their carer being identified and classified as such, for various reasons;
  • The main, or only, carer may not necessarily be the next of kin;
  • The carer may be registered with a different practice. This, of course, does not stop the practice communicating information to that practice, with the permission of the carer.

Carers are not a generic group, with common circumstances and problems. Some groups of carers are more difficult to reach, and others have particular needs, so specific strategies may be appropriate.

You may also want to develop a system with your local Carers' Centre whereby they let you know which of your patients are carers. Salford Carers' Centre use a generic referral form which is distributed in the community by a variety of people in a range of settings in the community. The cards are used to refer carers to the Carers' centre, but also to tell GP surgeries when one of their patients has been identified as a carer.

Salford Referral Form (121 KB)

In partnership with Salford PCT, Salford Carers Centre have also developed an electronic referral form to provide a quick and easy way for GPs and other primary care staff to refer carers to their centre. In August 2007 this form was uploaded onto GP practice systems across Salford.

Find out more about Salford's Electronic Carers Referral Form

Greenwich PCT have issued a protocol for GPs entitled ‘Supporting Patients who are Carers’ in conjunction with the Carers Centre. This incorporates many of the ideas which have been put forward in Primary Carers and elsewhere, and gives advice to practices on how to proceed.

Greenwich's protocol: Supporting Patients who are Carers (166 KB)

Greenwich Well Carer Health Check (47 KB)

Islington PCT have accredited a written protocol on the identification and referral of carers produced by the local Carers’ Centre and Camden PCT have also supported a protocol developed by the Carers Centre, which included leaflets, a carers information pack and was supported by visits to practices.

Islington's practice protocol on the identification of carers (31 KB)

Leeds and Worcestershire also have protocols.

A number of projects e.g. Bucks and Swindon have produced guides and toolkits to aid the identification of carers in primary care.

There are various models of joint working between Carers’ Centres and primary care. Many projects use primary care link workers who work closely with individual practices. By contrast, other centres have worked more closely with community nurses rather than directly with GPs, and also find this to be very effective.

Next steps

Once the surgery has identified that a patient is a carer, they should:

  • Establish level of caring commitment and support;
  • Gain consent to be recorded as carer;
  • Always ask the patient if they are happy for health information about them to be told to their carer; Confidentiality in Mental Health: A guide to good practice in information sharing (196 KB)
  • Develop a carers’ register by marking the personal record of those carers identified.
  • Give information to the carer about the range of support services that are available to them, both in the surgery and from outside agencies, especially the details of the local Carers Centre;
  • Carers should routinely be informed that they can ask Social Services for a Carers Assessment;
  • Give the carer appropriate information about the condition and health needs of the person they care for;
  • Give information about the kind of care they may be providing, e.g. administering medication, moving and handling.

Referring 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.

Click here for more information on referring carers

If you encounter any difficulties in viewing PDF documents available on this page, please see: Help accessing PDF files