Carers UK, a national membership charity for carers, is calling on the NHS to prioritise unpaid carers when addressing the backlog of treatments.
The news comes after research by the charity revealed that a third of carers (34%) have been waiting more than a year for NHS assessment or treatment, and two thirds (67%) have seen their health decline while waiting.
The charity is now urging the government to provide more support for this group and funding for social care in order to relieve pressure on families.
“Unpaid carers have been completely overlooked for support”
Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “Gridlock in hospitals and lengthy NHS waiting lists, combined with a perpetual shortage in care services and the cost-of-living squeeze is forming the perfect storm for unpaid carers to collapse. They have nowhere to turn.
“The backbone of our NHS and social care systems, unpaid carers have been completely overlooked for support. Without it, we will only see more carers crumble – and more pressure applied to our already over-stretched services.
“To start, the NHS must prioritise carers when addressing the backlog of treatments, recognising the impact of waiting on their ability to care. It is important that there are specific workers in place during the hospital discharge process to ensure carers are included and supported to care safely at home.
“To relieve the pressure on families and hospitals it is vital that the social care system gets the sustainable long-term investment it so desperately needs, and that there is dedicated funding to support carers as part of winter planning.”
The charity’s research also revealed that the NHS waiting lists are affecting people who are cared for, with 31% of carers saying their loved one has been waiting for more than a year.
These long waits have left many in pain, with poor mental health and unable to attend work or carry out their caring role.
Deteriorating physical and mental health is compounded by a lack of support in the community, with one in five carers (22%) saying an emergency admission to hospital could have been prevented with higher quality care and support in place.
The NHS must do more to support carers, with around half (49%) reporting that healthcare staff did not provide them with the information needed to care well and safely.
A £500 winter top up payment should be provided to those receiving carer’s allowance
Carers UK is now urging the government to provide more support for carers, this includes raising carer benefits in line with inflation to relieve some of the cost-of-living pressures they are currently facing.
The charity would also like to see the prime minister provide a winter top up payment of £500 to those receiving Carer’s Allowance, as has been delivered in Scotland and Wales.
This would help carers to provide health and nutritious meals for their families, heat their homes and provide necessary care for their loved ones.