Dementia: Alzheimer’s Society slams hospital care

People with dementia are spending longer in hospital than others admitted with the same medical condition and leaving wards in a worse state than when they went in, the Alzheimer’s Society said today.

A report by the charity called for patients with dementia to be discharged a week earlier on average than they currently, saving £80m which could be reinvested in social care and community health services for people with dementia across the UK.

The study was based on a survey of almost 1,300 carers of people with dementia, more than 650 nurses and almost 500 nurse/ward managers.

Longer stays

Eighty-six per cent of the managers polled said people with dementia always or sometimes spent longer in hospital than others admitted with the same medical condition, while 49% of carers said stays in hospital had been longer than they expected.

Almost half (47%) of carers said being in hospital had had a significant negative effect on dementia patients’ physical health, which was not directly related to the condition they were admitted for, while 54% said dementia symptoms had become worse.

This was despite up to a quarter of beds in hospitals being taken up by people with dementia.

The report also said that 36% of people with dementia who went into hospital from their own homes were discharged into a care home.

Big savings

Chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society Neil Hunt said: “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.”

Head of policy at the United Kingdom Homecare Association Colin Angel said that the report highlighted the need for the NHS to fund social care provision, which would generate savings for acute hospitals.

He said: “We encourage commissioners of health services to invest in specialist local rapid discharge services where savings to health are passed to social care allowing providers to invest in staff training for the specific needs of people with dementia.”

Delayed discharge

The report said that half of people experiencing a delayed discharge had dementia. Carers identified a lack of discharge support while nurses said finding appropriate care packages or older person’s mental health service placements were key difficulties in discharging dementia patients.

The report also identified problems with staff training with 54% of nurses saying they had not received any pre-registration training in the illness. Of particular concern to carers was a lack of help with eating and drinking which was often linked to deterioration in patients’ physical health.

The report also found use of antipsychotic drugs was significant with 77% of nurses and nursing managers saying they were used at least sometimes to treat those in hospital, with a quarter of this group saying they were prescribed inappropriately.

The finding comes days after a damning government-commissioned review into the use of antipsychotics for people with dementia, which found 1,800 people were dying each year across the UK as a result of prescriptions.

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