Two in five unpaid carers put off medical treatment because of the demands of their role, according to a new survey of 3,400 carers.

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Carers’ Week in Norfolk

Staff from a range of agencies will be on-hand with lots of information at Carers’ Week “roadshows” visiting the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Trust ,The James Paget Hospital, Cromer Hospital and towns throughout Norfolk including Dereham and Acle. In West Norfolk, a Carer’s Week event is taking place in King’s Lynn and Downham Market.

Anybody who is looking after someone else and needs to find out more about information, services and support available in Norfolk can call the Norfolk Carers Helpline free on 0808 808 9876.

The survey, which has been released to coincide with Carers’ Week this week, showed 83pc suffered physical heath problems associated with caring and 87pc said caring had been detrimental to their mental health.

The Carers Council for Norfolk is one of the groups across the country now calling for better financial and practical support, regular health checks and more carers’ breaks.

Joy Salter, a member of the Carers’ Council for Norfolk who looks after her disabled daughter, Zoe, at their home in Acle, said: “The problem is people looking after someone else think of themselves primarily as a relation or friend and not as an unpaid carer, and so do not recognise services and support that are labelled as being for carers. We want many more people who have caring responsibilities to find out about and receive the information, support and services they need, and are entitled to, and we want to see these services improved. Without these, many of these people will themselves fall ill and may be unable to continue their caring role.”

GPs in north Norfolk have recognised the importance of carers by recently setting up a new support service delivered by the Norwich and District Carers Forum (NDCF) in 20 GP surgeries in the north of the county.

The initiative by the North Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) means that two part-time support workers will be available on a monthly basis at each surgery to give support to anyone in an unpaid caring role.

The forum already has an outreach carer support worker for north Norfolk who offers home visits to carers and also visits libraries across north Norfolk on a monthly basis, providing a drop-in support service.

Most carers do not want their loved one to go into hospital, or into care or nursing homes.

They want to continue to look after them at home, but what they need more than anything to do that is financial support and access to respite care.

The argument is that by ploughing some funding into these areas it will prevent carers’ crises and prevent government having to pick up an expensive bill when the responsibility for the cared-for passes from a burnt-out or ill carer to the state.

But as the NHS is finding out, putting money into preventative services at a time of austerity is not an easy task.

It takes time for the knock-on effect of preventative care to reduce spending elsewhere, so while it is being put in place you end up having to spend more.

By 2026, the estimated additional annual cost of funding care – £1.7bn – is likely to rise to £3.6bn because of the ageing population.

A white paper is planned for release in the next few weeks but it is expected to focus on improving social care and safeguarding personal budgets, with funding to be covered in a separate report.

Earlier this month, care services Minister Paul Burstow revealed the white paper contains plans to grant legal right for the first time to people in England who spend hours caring for elderly or disabled relatives.

It has been suggested these could include carers’ rights to respite breaks and to education and training.

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