A new analysis taken from a global survey of 3,086 carers has cast new light on the struggles carers in the UK face today. The analysis reveals the majority of caregivers in the UK are relatively new to caring, with most taking care of someone for five years or less, furthermore, the data reveals 34% are millennials (between the ages of 18 – 34). More than half of carers surveyed in the UK said they turn to online search engines to find information on topics related to health, however, the majority have no trust in these platforms and find advice difficult to understand. The analysis has highlighted the growing needs of carers who are ‘just about managing’, and whose role will only become more critical as people in the UK live longer. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., which conducted the research, is presenting these findings at this year’s National Health Service (NHS) Health and Care Expo 2017. Teva undertook this global and UK analysis of caregivers to illustrate the growing role carers are playing in health and social care. The new analysis aims to give a voice to their views and concerns – in particular related to eHealth, as this issue is explored and debated at the Expo.
Out of the UK carers surveyed, over a quarter said they do not feel in control of their own health and are concerned about the consequences this may have on their life. When asked whether carers were able to manage their caregiving duties, more than a quarter in the UK stated they do not have enough support or access to information to care for the individual properly. A lack of understanding about the individual’s condition and treatment program were identified as significant gaps in their knowledge. Delving deeper, the results revealed that 71% of carers themselves are suffering from a chronic disease, such as depression, anxiety, chronic pain or high blood pressure, and more than half stated that their caring duties have had a large emotional toll on their lives. This burden was significantly higher than the global average.
Commenting on the announcement, Laura Bennett, Adult Policy Lead from Carers Trust said:
In the UK alone, there are 6.5 million people caring for a family member or friend who is older, disabled or seriously ill and this figure is expected to rise dramatically by up to 60% by the time we reach 2030. Caring can be an incredibly tough experience and we know many carers feel lonely or socially isolated. Alongside support from carers services, we see an opportunity for health apps and other online resources to be developed specifically for carers, to help support them.
The survey results demonstrate a potential for digital technologies to provide carers with access to health information in a simple, attractive and understandable format. A third of all carers globally expressed they would like to know more about how to support another individual with a medical condition and advice on coping strategies. Almost half of UK carers wished online health information was more easily accessible.
Emily Holzhausen, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Carers UK, said:
For many of us, caring for a loved one is the most natural thing in the world. However, without the right information and support at the right time, competing commitments can see carers put their own needs to the back of the queue, making it harder to maintain a healthy lifestyle or arrange doctor’s appointments for themselves. Each year over two million of us begin a new caring role and it’s vital that those providing support to an older or disabled loved one feel equipped to do so and able to maintain a life of their own alongside caring. As part of a wider system of support needed to address the barriers to health posed by caring, accessible digital tools and education can help carers effectively plan and manage their own wellbeing and that of others.
Kate Smith, Director of NHS Strategy at Teva, said:
At Teva, we’re keen to support the NHS in finding digital health solutions that help carers and their patients by making health and social care more sustainable in the face of rising demand. As we’ve seen from our analysis, eHealth and digital technologies can help carers access health information, stay connected to medical professionals and play a more proactive role caring for their loved ones. However, current resources are not meeting their immediate needs. Information needs to be credible, in the right format, and implemented in a way that addresses their needs and the privacy and security requirements of organizations like the NHS. Such solutions could help transform the patient and carer journey.
The use of eHealth and digital technologies will be explored during the NHS Health and Care Innovation Expo 2017, and is a focus for the NHS Five Year Forward View, which has re-committed to finding new ways of supporting carers and helping the most vulnerable. As headline sponsor of the two-day conference, Teva is hosting an interactive panel discussion on “The NHS as a digital exemplar: How will technology empower the NHS, patients and carers in the future?” and a digital health zone on “Implementing digital healthcare innovation: What can best practice teach us about how to effectively engage with patients?”