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Experts warning over variation in dementia care

92% of dementia sufferers find hospital environments frightening

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 18 January 2016

The standards and quality of care being provided for people with dementia across England is worryingly varied, according to charity Alzheimer’s Society.

The charity is today launching a new campaign called Fix Dementia Care to highlight the issue.

It claimed that too many people with dementia were falling while in hospital, being discharged at night or being marooned in hospital despite their medical treatment having finished.

The Alzheimer’s Society carried out an investigation and Freedom of Information (FOI) requests revealed “unacceptable” national variation in the quality of hospital care across England.

The investigation involved FOI requests to 163 NHS trusts in England (with responses received from 87 trusts) and a survey of over 570 people affected by dementia to gather first-hand testimony of dementia care in hospitals. 

It found that the vast majority (92%) of people with dementia said they found hospital environments frightening,

In one trust, 702 people with dementia fell in 2014 -15. Last year, 28% of people over the age of 65 who fell in hospital had dementia - but this was as high as 71% in the worst performing hospital trust.

The FOIs also showed that people with dementia were being inappropriately discharged at night.

Last year, in the 68 trusts that responded to this FOI (41%), 4,926 people with dementia were discharged between the hours of 11pm and 6am.

In the three worst performing hospitals, four to five people were being discharged overnight per week.

Discharge at night is considered inappropriate as it is unsafe and disorientating for people with dementia who are less likely to be able to access care and support, said the charity.

In the worst performing hospitals, people with dementia were found to be staying five to seven times longer than other patients over the age of 65.

The charity estimated that, with a quarter of hospital beds occupied by people with dementia, around £264.2 million of public money was being wasted on poor dementia care in 2013-14.

Jeremy Hughes, the charity’s chief executive, said: “Good dementia care should never be a throw of the dice – yet people are forced to gamble with their health every time they are admitted to hospital.

“Poor care can have devastating, life-changing consequences. Starving because you can’t communicate to hospital staff that you are hungry, or falling and breaking a hip because you’re confused and no-one’s around to help, can affect whether you stand any chance of returning to your own home or not.

“We must urgently put a stop to the culture where it’s easier to find out about your local hospital finances than the quality of care you’ll receive if you have dementia.”

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