Newton Medical Centre has improved its support for carers after an in-depth study into how COVID-19 has impacted patients who also look after others.
The initiative – published by clinical excellence body NICE – is an extension of SSP Health’s focus on carers with Carer Champions assigned to all its practices, ensuring those with caring responsibilities have their health prioritised.
Newton Medical Practice surveyed all its patients identified as carers to ask them how the Coronavirus pandemic was affecting them and how the practice could help.
Several SSP Health surgeries are accredited as teaching and training practices and medical students Phillipa Caine, Maisy Lopez and Samuel Roberts carried out the survey, initially on 200 patients.
The findings revealed that many of the carers contacted felt isolated and wanted help with access to online systems, information and other services. The practice put in new initiatives to solve these problems.
The study, which aimed to implement NICE guidance, was overseen by our practice GPs Dr Omon Imohi and Dr Olukayode Adeeko.
SSP Health GP and Director Dr Shikha Pitalia said: “This is a great initiative and a wonderful example of how the SSP Health model has given these doctors and the practice time, space, support and opportunity to focus on qualitative work, in addition to  treating patients. 
“We give our practices the chance to make services better through this kind of study due to our centralised processes and back office team doing time-consuming surgery admin.
“SSP Health has prioritised carers as a group of patients who need extra support as they sometimes spend so much time looking after a loved one that they neglect their own health. 
“Our concept of Carer Champions was introduced at each of the SSP practices many years ago and the ‘champions’ have proved a lifeline for many of our carers, who deserve much praise for the work they do.
“This project found that half of carers who were contacted felt social isolation due to the pandemic.
“We already knew this was a problem for many vulnerable patients and so, during the pandemic, all SSP surgeries contacted patients who were self-isolating to ensure they were being looked after physically, mentally and also socially – and this initiative very much chimes with that.
“I’m sure once the COVID vaccination work at our practices is completed, all our surgeries can implement the additional findings of this survey, so carers receive the enhanced support they deserve.”