Don’t let the carers of today become the patients of tomorrow

In his latest blog post Dr Hein Le Roux reflects on the danger of making assumptions and how to turn negative experiences into positive ones.

Carers play a crucial role in our society and it is important that they continue to be recognised and valued.

Practice colleagues at Minchinhampton Surgery have been working on a quality improvement (QI) project which builds on the great work many practices are already doing to better identify carers, raise their profile and signpost them to carer support organisations such as Carers Gloucestershire.

The project came about when a carer (John) approached our practice manager (Wendy) to tell us that he felt there were gaps in how our practice dealt with him, and by inference the other 200 carers on our register.

Wendy had the foresight to turn John’s negative experience into something very positive both for all the carers registered at our practice as well as our practice team, and John agreed to work with us as an equal partner (Patients as partners – Kings Fund) to improve on a quality improvement project.

As a practice, we realised that it can be easy to become defensive, assuming that patients always want a Rolls Royce. However, by listening, we realised that often all they want is a bicycle that works.

By listening to John, we were able to better understand his frustrations. Surprisingly, despite being a full time carer to his wife, he had never heard of Carers Gloucestershire. As a practice, we realised that it can be easy to become defensive, assuming that patients always want a Rolls Royce. However, by listening, we realised that often all they want is a bicycle that works. In other words, simple improvements can really make a big difference to people’s lives.

We contacted Carers Gloucestershire who shared their best practice guide for GP practices. They suggested that we approach Locking Hill Practice, which is seen as a beacon carer practice, having previously worked with Carers Gloucestershire and their PPG to develop a highly regarded Carers scheme.

Their practice manager (Jenny Valleley) was inspirational and happy to share their experience, learning and documents with us. In a world where there can be both implicit and explicit competition between us all, this collaborative and open approach was really refreshing and made a tangible difference to patient care. Instead of reinventing the wheel, we have then adapted their resources to inform our own local project that is bespoke to our situation.

The project has led to four specific actions being taken at Minchinhampton surgery, which other practices may find useful:

  • A member of staff has been appointed as Carer Administrative Lead.
  • In collaboration with John and the local PPG, the practice has developed a carers pack containing useful information, including details about Carers Gloucestershire. This is given to existing and new carers registering at the practice. We measure how many packs we give out to track our progress.
  • The practice has built a good relationship with the local PPG, gaining their support in raising the profile of carers in the local community, many of whom are socially isolated and lonely. Some of our PPG members are also carers, so this project resonates with them and we have certainly valued their interest and contribution.
  • A practice learning event was held – John and Carers Gloucestershire spoke about what it means to be a carer and what practical help practice teams could offer to support.  Like your teams, our practice team is already very empathetic to our patients and having this learning event has enabled us to combine their intrinsic kindness with new practical skills to help improve our carers wellbeing.

The links below may be of interest for improving your carers’ experiences. We are very open to your feedback and are always keen to improve what we do.

  1. Carers in Gloucestershire (Tim Poole, Chief Executive of Carers Gloucestershire)
  2. A Carer’s Perspective (John)
  3. A Carer’s Perspective (Gerald)
  4. Carer Project (Jenny Vallely, Practice Manager at Locking Hill)
  5. Supporting Carers (Kerry Renowden)
  6. King’s Fund paper on ‘Patients as Partners’
  7. Quality improvement resource

Posted on November 10, 2016 by Dr Hein Le Roux, local GP and board member at Gloucestershire CCG

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