Carers should be screened for depression, says Sunderland MP

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A POLITICIAN has backed calls for GPs to routinely screen carers for signs of depression.

Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson has supported recommendations by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), which estimates that at least one in patients 20 registered with every GP is a carer.

The group claimed 40 per cent of carers experience psychological distress or depression at some time, as a result of their caring responsibilities.

A screening process would involve “a small number of general, non-invasive, questions about mood and mental wellbeing”, before the patient decided how they would like to proceed.

Mrs Hodgson welcomed the proposals, and said improving the health of carers would be to the benefit of the community as a whole.

“Supporting carers to support their loved ones is crucial, and I am very pleased to see the Royal College of GPs coming out to say this, as family doctors should be playing a big role in doing that.

“Lots of carers put themselves last when it comes to seeking help, which can lead to them developing serious physical and mental health problems of their own, so there should be a proactive approach to making sure that those crises don’t happen.

“Unfortunately, all too often GPs don’t think it’s in their job description to identify and support carers, but it’s actually to everyone’s benefit if they do so.

“I hope that our local Clinical Commissioning Groups take on board these guidelines and work with partners to ensure Sunderland’s hidden army of carers get the support they need.”

RCGP chairman Dr Clare Gerada said: “Carers often neglect their own healthcare needs and in many cases, it is only a matter of time before they themselves become ill.

“They are at risk physically and emotionally with stress related illnesses, but it can be hard for them to admit that they are struggling.”