Half of the people with dementia who go into hospital leave in a worse condition than when they arrived, according to a highly critical report published today.
The report from charity the Alzheimer’s Society calls for the average amount of time a person with dementia stays in hospital to be cut by a week.
People with the condition, who occupy a quarter of all hospital beds, tend to stay far longer than people without the condition who went in for the same treatment.
The report Counting the Cost: caring for people with dementia on hospital wards, concluded that poor dementia care in hospitals was costing lives and hundreds of millions of pounds.
The charity carried out research involving 2,427 people – made up of 1,291 carers, 657 nursing staff and 479 nurse/ward managers.
The findings revealed large, costly variations in the quality of care for people with dementia.
Almost half of carers (47%) said being in hospital had a significant negative effect on the person with dementia's health and 54% of carers said being in hospital had a significant negative effect on the person's dementia.
More than a third (36%) of people with dementia who go into hospital from living in their own homes were discharged to a care home and were unable to return home.
Nurses taking part in the survey said they wanted more access to specialist advice and help.
Almost all (97%) of nurses worked with people with dementia but 80% did not receive any or enough dementia training.
Alzheimer's Society has called for all hospitals to reduce the average length of stay for a person with dementia by at least a week and wants nurses to be equipped with better training and equipment.
Neil Hunt, chief executive of Alzheimer's Society, said: “It is shocking that people with dementia are occupying up to a quarter of hospital beds yet there are scandalous variations in quality of dementia care in hospitals. A million more people will develop dementia in the next 10 years. The NHS needs to start taking dementia seriously.
“At least £80 million a year and probably hundreds of millions could be saved if people with dementia are enabled to leave hospital one week earlier. Hospitals must commit to reducing the length of stay if we are to stop people with dementia deteriorating in hospital and lessen the chance of people being discharged to a care home.”
Care Services Minister Phil Hope said: “The National Dementia Strategy published earlier this year launched a major programme of work for people with dementia across the NHS, but this report is a reminder of the scale of work that still needs to be done.
“We have set priority areas for all hospitals to take urgent action, including appointing a senior member of staff to improve quality of care for people with dementia, proper training for all staff, and specialist older people's mental health teams working in hospitals.”