Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature The BMJ Awards 2016

Primary care team

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 07 April 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i1842
  1. Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist
  1. London, UK
  1. nigel.hawkes1{at}

Nigel Hawkes finds out how innovative approaches to supporting carers, elderly people, and other vulnerable groups are keeping people independent and out of hospital

Carers’ clinics

Kaysia Heafield, a general practitioner at Somercotes Medical Centre in Derbyshire, recalls the day when she was faced with a patient with arthritis so disabling she needed crutches to walk. “She said she was a carer for her mother, and had been also for her father, who had died. I was trying to understand what she needed. I said I could put her on the carers’ register and she said, ‘What will that mean to me?’ She didn’t want outside carers to come in. She enjoyed looking after her parents; it was a pleasure. She just needed support.”

Heafield ran a survey of her patients and found many carers who felt stressed, undersupported, and short of practical help. She rang Derbyshire Carers’ Association, a local charity, and suggested a partnership that involved locating one of the charity’s carer support workers in the surgery.

“They find it really difficult to get to carers—they can’t identify them easily. Now they have a room in the surgery, they can do their job in a much more efficient way. We can send patients to the next room, and that feels better. It’s no longer passing the buck. She can help them by tapping into benefits, respite care, disability badges, whatever they need.” Regular clinics are held and are accessible to all carers, not only those who are patients of the practice.

Responses have been strongly favourable, with a lot of positive feedback. GPs at the practice have become better at identifying carers and now feel there is something to offer them. The project is cost neutral so should be sustainable. The clinical commissioning …

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