Dementia training lacking in most hospitals, study shows

Just 5% of hospitals in England and Wales require staff to undertake any specialist dementia training, research by the Royal College of Psychiatrists shows.

The Department of Health-funded study of more than 200 hospitals found that eight in 10 had no system in place to ensure ward staff were aware of a patient’s condition and how it might affect their care.

An inspection of the notes of nearly 8,000 patients with dementia found that just four in 10 were given a formal mental assessment on admission.

Previous research has established that poor care of dementia patients in hospital has a direct impact on their needs in the community.

A study by the Alzheimer’s Society last year showed 36% of people admitted to hospital from their own home were later discharged into residential care.

Paul Burstow, minister for care services, said: “There can be no excuses for these shocking findings. The audit is a snap shot of the state of dementia care in our hospitals twelve months ago. It shines a spotlight on poor practice that demands action from the NHS.

“We know what good quality dementia care looks like. None of this is rocket science. There needs to be senior staff leadership on dementia in every hospital to make it a reality.”

“There is still reluctance by clinicians and managers to accept that the care of this most vulnerable group of patients is a core function of acute hospitals. This must change,” said Professor Peter Crome who chaired the report’s steering committee.

“Assessing and treating dementia patients properly and supporting their carers will not only improve patients’ health and quality of life, but will also result in shortened hospital stays and reduce NHS and social care costs.”

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society, said: “We know hospital staff want to do a good job but, without training and support, they are being prevented from providing good quality dementia care.”

The study also uncovered a lack of nutritional assessment of patients on admission to hospital.

Although 96% of hospitals said nutritional assessments of patients with dementia were conducted as standard, 30% of those whose case notes were studied had no nutritional assessments. This is despite the fact that poor nutrition and hydration are known to add to dementia patients’ confusion and increase the risk of falls.

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