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Claims of ‘shocking variation’ in hospital dementia care

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Too many hospital patients with dementia are falling, being discharged at night or having their departure delayed, a charity has claimed based on the findings from an investigation.

Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to trusts by the Alzheimer’s Society uncovered what it described it as “unacceptable” variation in the quality of hospital care across England.

“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”

Jeremy Hughes

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, according to the charity’s data.

In addition, the FOI responses from 87 trusts suggested that as many as 41% of patients with dementia were discharged last year between the hours of 11pm and 6am.

In the three worst performing hospitals, four to five people were being discharged over-night per week – only six hospitals did not discharge overnight.

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

The investigation also involved a survey of over 570 people affected by dementia.

It found that 92% thought hospitals were frightening for people with dementia, 57% felt dementia patients were not treated with understanding and dignity, and only 2% reported that all staff had understood the specific needs of dementia patients.

The Alzheimer’s Society also said it was told of instances where patients with dementia were treated with excessive force, not properly supported to eat or drink, not given the right pain medication, left alone on wards for hours and left in wet or soiled sheets.

While it noted there were notable examples of excellent care across the country, the “difference from one hospital to the next was far too great and there is inconsistent understanding of the needs of people with dementia”.

In response, the charity said it was launching a new campaign Fix Dementia Care. Over the course of 2016, the charity said it would look at the quality of care people with dementia receive in three key care settings – hospital, care homes and the home.

The twin aims of the campaign are that all hospitals publish an annual statement of dementia care and regulators, such as the Care Quality Commission, include standards of dementia care in their assessments.

Jeremy Hughes

Jeremy Hughes

Jeremy Hughes

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society, said: “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,” he said.

He added: “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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Readers' comments (1)

  • I think the discharge coordinators not having any clinical experience need to be looked into. Seriously patients discharge is considered for releasing bed but the full person need is ignored. The accomodation, existence of a carer or even if they've got food for the next 24 hour is ignored. Care is no more being compassionate until the patient is picked up by a community team. Dementia is being diagnosed for any mild cognitive impairment with no further investigation. We are failing people in care of the hospital.

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