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Hidden army of carers in the UK

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Carers need more support for their own health Carers need more support for their own health

Last week I listened with interest to a news item focused on the lack of care given by families to their older relatives. I wondered how the millions of adult carers who care for their relatives and loved ones would feel if they had heard that caring for an older relative is rarely seen in the UK.

The news channel appeared to have missed a vital statistic that would have taken their morning discussion in a very different direction: the number of people caring for a loved one is 6.5 million - almost 10% of the UK population - and there are unknown numbers of young people caring for family members.

Carers UK estimates that the care provided by informal carers saves the country more than the total annual cost of the NHS. This is a remarkable figure. It should be no surprise then that there is to be a greater focus on supporting informal carers in the run-up to the 2015 election.

We know from work undertaken at the Queen's Nursing Institute (QNI) in 2012 that community nurses want to support the health and wellbeing of carers, and they asked for guidance to be developed. The QNI has created a resource to support district nurse teams in addressing the health and wellbeing of carers. The resource material was developed in collaboration with a large number of Queen's Nurses and carers groups, and is now available to access via the QNI website.

The feedback on the resource has been overwhelmingly positive. This success has led to further funding to extend the resource over the next year, to support practice nurses working with adult and young carers in general practice and school nurses supporting carers of school age.

The QNI website has more information on how you can support the hidden army of carers providing 24-hour care for many of society's most vulnerable. There is an opportunity also to learn how to become a carers' or a young carers' champion - a role model for this vitally important work within your provider organisation. Please contact project leader Jennie Whitford for more information: jennie.whitford@qni.org.uk

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