• carer;
  • general practice;
  • primary care;
  • screening tools

Aims and objectives.  To determine the feasibility of a screening tool to identify carers in a general practice.

Background.  The need to support informal carers is well established in policy and practice, but many carers continue to lack the support they need. Identifying carers is a fundamental precondition to providing them with support. Studies often recruit carers who are members of carers’ organizations or via the care recipient in receipt of services. However, as nearly 60% of carers receive no support from the statutory services, this group of carers may not be representative of the majority of carers. This paper describes the results of a study undertaken to identify a broader group of carers in a general practice in a large Scottish city.

Design and methods.  A quantitative research design was employed using a mailed screening survey to identify carers within a general practice. Carers were systematically identified, independent of the care recipient, using a screening tool developed by the researcher which was sent to all adult patients registered with the practice.

Results.  The response rate was 69%. Overall, 11% of the surgery population identified themselves as carers with a mean age of 55 years. The carers were involved in a range of caring activities of varying levels and duration.

Conclusion.  The screening exercise was time consuming and costly. However, it would be feasible and useful to identify carers in smaller groups.

Relevance to practice.  This study tackles issues that are pertinent to health policy and practice. Carers were systematically identified from a general practice population and included those at an early stage of the caring role, prior to being involved with service providers, as well as those established in their role. If carers are identified early in their caring career the primary health care team is more able to support them proactively.