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Emergency dementia admissions up by one third

Dementia care at ‘crisis point’ warn experts

Jo Carlowe

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

New data published today by Alzheimer’s Society reveals the strain on the NHS of people with dementia unnecessarily ending up in hospitals, which the charity blames on the collapsing social care system.

The figures show over 379,000 emergency admissions in England for people with dementia in 2017/18, an increase of 35% - 100,000 more admissions in that year - from 2012/13. The number of people with dementia who end up stranded in hospital for up to a year after an emergency admission in England also rose 6% from 2012, with 40,000 people with dementia stuck longer than a month in 2017/18. 

The rising figures mean more than half of all people with a dementia diagnosis in England went through emergency admission to hospital in 2017/18, many multiple times.

Alzheimer’s Society estimates that the total spend for the NHS of the increase in emergency admissions of people with dementia in 2017/18 was over £280 million. Additionally, the 40,000 people spending between a month and a year stranded in hospital in 2017/18 cost the NHS over £165 million.

While the ageing population may be accountable for some of the increase, Alzheimer’s Society blames much of the rise on the scarcity of appropriate care support, and the paucity of care home places able to provide specialist dementia care.

Alzheimer’s Society’s Chief Executive Jeremy Hughes described “the stark reality of many people with dementia left to fall through the cracks in our broken social care system”, and warned that people with dementia are falling prey to avoidable emergencies like falls, dehydration and infections because of “scarce, inadequate and costly social care”.

The charity is today demanding £8bn per year allocated in the spring budget, and for cross-party talks to begin immediately so agreement can be reached for free universal care, funded like schools and the NHS to give people with dementia “the dignity, security and fundamental care they deserve”.

Mr Hughes added: “People with dementia are all too often being dumped in hospital and left there for long stays. Many are only admitted because there’s no social care support to keep them safe at home. They are commonly spending more than twice as long in hospital as needed, confused and scared. This costs the NHS millions for the want of properly funded social care. 850,000 people with dementia and their families across the UK heard the prime minister’s promise to fix social care. They expect action.” 

Responding, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "We know that hospital visits can be distressing for people with dementia which is why there should be high-quality care in the community. We have given councils an extra £1.5bn next year for children and adult’s social care and are determined to find a long-term solution so that every person is treated with dignity and offered the security they deserve.”

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