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Report: Prioritising carers’ health and wellbeing in the healthcare system


Authors: Natalie Winter, Rebecca Haddock
PUBLISHER: Deeble Institute for Health Policy Research

Carers provide significant cost savings to the healthcare system by caring for people living with chronic illness or disability at home, to the detriment of their own health and wellbeing. Carers require support to improve their outcomes, however, little is known about carers and how and when they can best be supported. This is particularly evident for carers from priority population groups and those who do not identify with the term ‘carer’.

Frameworks exist to assess carers; however, these are poorly implemented creating inequalities in healthcare and access to services. More data collected through standardised assessment frameworks is needed to guide government spending and allocation of resources and services for carers. Comprehensive data will identify carers’ outcomes, the suitability of existing services, and clinicians’ knowledge, skills and practices in conducting carer assessments.

There is capacity to support carers within the healthcare system, but it is necessary to shift away from a person-centered model of care and allow space for carers and their own wellbeing. Health system restructures can be supported with existing platforms such as electronic medical records, which will ensure consistent care is provided within one streamlined system. Time to conduct assessment and burden on clinicians are crucial barriers in supporting carers, and this can be addressed through Medicare-funded items focusing on carer assessment and provision of support.

Incorporating carers in the healthcare system will require change to promote the adoption and sustainability of new practices. Co-design is needed to develop strategies that support carer wellbeing and minimise additional burden on clinicians and the healthcare system.

Inclusion of all key stakeholders including carers, patients, clinicians from all professions, hospital and health service leaders, consumer groups, administration staff, researchers and policy-makers, will provide a strong evidence base for implementing strategies that are appropriate for all involved in carer health.

This issues brief highlights the gaps in care for carers in the community. It focuses on limitations in data collected about carers and how assessment is conducted among clinicians. It identifies where healthcare systems, carer assessment and delivery of care can be improved by using a co-design approach with key stakeholders. It outlines strategies to implement carer support in the healthcare setting utilising existing platforms, and how education for clinicians can be provided to upskill and prepare them for essential changes in delivery of care.

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