Health

Cancer carers have inadequate training, says charity

  • 14 October 2013
  • From the section Health
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Some carers looking after cancer patients in the UK are carrying out vital healthcare tasks without always having adequate training, according to Macmillan Cancer Support.

They asked more than 2,000 past and current carers about support they gave.

Twenty-two per cent said they had dealt with specific healthcare tasks like administering medicine and pain relief, while others had to give injections.

The charity wants the NHS to do more to support carers of people with cancer.

There are estimated to be around 240,000 carers looking after family members with cancer in the UK.

Some of the carers surveyed by Macmillan said they had to change dressings or even manage a catheter.

Fewer than half said they had received training from a healthcare professional.

'Identify carers'

Macmillan Cancer Support is pressing for an amendment to the Care Bill, which is due in the Commons later this month, placing a specific duty on the NHS in England to help cancer carers.

A spokesperson from the Department of Health agreed that there needed to be better joint working.

"Proposals already in the Care Bill will mean that local authorities will have to co-operate and work closely with the NHS to identify and support carers.

"We have also provided £400m to the NHS for carers' breaks and given over £1.5m of funding to help develop initiatives with GPs, nurses and carers organisations to train people to help support them in their caring roles."

In the survey carried out by YouGov for Macmillan Cancer Support, 63% of cancer carers who did not receive any training or said their training was not enough, were left feeling distressed and frightened.

One in three of this group said they were scared that their lack of knowledge could result in the person they care for being admitted to hospital.

'Responsive system'

A spokesperson for NHS England said not enough had been done in the past to ensure carers get the right training and support.

"Closer partnership working is already under way and the Integration Transformation Fund will act as a further catalyst for this.

"Health and Wellbeing Boards have been established, which bring together local clinical commissioning groups and local authorities to gain a shared understanding of the health and wellbeing needs of the community and develop a more responsive health and social care system which delivers better services and reduces health inequalities."

Ciarán Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said cancer carers took on a huge responsibility and deserved more help.

"Not only do cancer carers give hours of emotional support and practical help, they are performing clinical duties. Families and carers are the backbone of society and they deserve to be supported.

"The Care Bill legislation must be amended to ensure the NHS in England has a responsibility to work with local authorities to identify and signpost cancer carers to appropriate services.

"As the number of people diagnosed with cancer doubles in the next 20 years, there will also be a surge in the number of people caring for them."

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