Background: Informal carers frequently suffer adverse consequences from caring. General practice teams are well positioned to support them. However, what carers of stroke survivors want and expect from general practice, and the practical support measures they might like, remain largely unexplored.
The aims of this study are twofold. Firstly it explores both the support stroke carers would like from general practice and their reactions to the community based support proposed in the New Deal. Secondly, perceptions of a general practice team are investigated covering similar topics to carer interviews but from their perspective.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 13 stroke carers and 10 members of a general practice team. Carers' experiences and expectations of general practice and opinions of support measures from recent government policy were explored. General practice professionals were asked about their perceived role and their perceptions of carers' support needs. Interviews were content analysed.
Results: Carers' expectations of support from general practice were low and they neither received nor expected much support for themselves. General practice was seen as reactive primarily because of time constraints. Some carers would appreciate emotional support but others did not want additional services. Responses to recent policy initiatives were mixed with carers saying these might benefit other carers but not themselves.
General practice professionals' opinions were broadly similar. They recognise carers' support needs but see their role as reactive, focussed on stroke survivors, rather than carers. Caring was recognised as challenging. Providing emotional support and referral were seen as important but identification of carers was considered difficult. Time constraints limit their support. Responses to recent policy initiatives were positive.
Conclusions: Carers' expectations of support from general practice for themselves are low and teams are seen as reactive and time constrained. Both the carers and the general practice team participants emphasised the valuable role of general practice team in supporting stroke survivors. Research is needed to determine general practice teams' awareness and identification of carers and of the difficulties they encounter supporting stroke carers. Carer policy initiatives need greater specificity with greater attention to diversity in carer needs.