Page last updated at 09:42 GMT, Thursday, 12 June 2008 10:42 UK

IT giant founds carers' network

By Geoff Adams-Spink
Age & disability correspondent, BBC News website

Screenshot of the ConnectingForCare website
The site aims to build a sense of community among carers

IT giant, Intel, has launched an online service so that carers in the UK can support each other and get advice from professionals.

The company says that the virtual network - - is the first of its kind.

It will bring together family carers, healthcare professionals, social workers and others.

The aim is to "fill a void in today's healthcare system" by using technology to build a sense of community.

ConnectingForCare is a collaborative effort between Intel, Counsel and Care, the Princess Royal Trust for Carers and the Queen's Nursing Institute.

"We think that technology can play a major role in improving care and reducing costs," said Christine Claus of Intel's Digital Health Group.

"But we've also found that technology provides a fantastic way of connecting people together and there are some communities that really need a forum to provide that exchange of information and support."

Intel refuses to put a figure on its investment but says it is paying for the infrastructure, maintenance costs and publicity for the forum.

It is estimated that six million people in the UK provide unpaid care for an older or disabled person and Intel is hoping that many of them will start to use the new service.

The site contains information about various medical conditions - for example Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's - and hopes to attract professionals from the healthcare and social care fields.

"Community nurses have always considered patients, their families and informal carers to be essential partners in their work," said Rosemary Cook of the Queen's Nursing Institute.

"Without this shared and endeavour, many patients would find it much harder and sometimes impossible to cope."

The website includes an area for carers to create a personal profile and join a variety of networks according to their particular needs, forums and message boards and a "spotlight" section to draw attention to outstanding individuals.

Among those who have already joined ConnectingForCare is 35 year-old Phil Hough from Cheshire who cares full-time for his mother and brother.

His mother is physically disabled and his brother has mental health problems.

"It's a new platform for us to share our experiences and communicate," he told the BBC.

"The unique aspect for me is that we're going to share experiences with professional carers - that's not something I get the opportunity to do."

Mr Hough says it is important for carers to maintain their own independence and to have the opportunity to socialise with others.

He thinks an online forum will prove popular because people will be able to participate at a time that suits them best.

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