A GP has overall responsibility for the healthcare of people who are unwell and being looked after at home. The GP can:
- assess the changing health of the person you are caring for
- give them information and support
- prescribe drugs
- organise nursing help if needed – for example, from a district nurse or specialist palliative care nurse
- refer them to a Macmillan nurse
- refer them to a physiotherapist or occupational therapist (OT)
- arrange for them to go into a hospital, hospice or nursing home, if needed – this may be to give you a break, known as respite care.
If the person you are caring for has moved to another area since they became ill, you will need to register them with a local GP surgery. You will need the name and address of their previous GP. Let their previous GP know what has happened.
Contact the GP if you are worried about something. This may be if you notice any new symptoms or some that are getting worse, or if there is a sudden change in the person’s condition. The GP may make a home visit, give you advice on the phone or suggest a visit to the surgery. You should also let their GP know that you are their carer. They may be able to tell you about local support services.
People with cancer in the UK can get free prescriptions. But in England, the person with cancer first needs to apply for a prescription exemption certificate. You can ask for an application form at their GP surgery or at the hospital.
GP surgeries are generally only open during the day on weekdays, but they must provide a 24-hour service. If you call for a doctor when the surgery is closed, you may be put through to an out-of-hours service.