Nursing older patients with dementia on acute medical wards is “really difficult”, the chief executive of the NHS has acknowledged, saying that services need to change radically to cope.
Sir David Nicholson told an NHS managers’ conference this week that changing the way services were delivered was the only way the health service would make the savings needed to cope with rising demand from an aging population without significant increases in funding.
The scandal of care at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust had shown the danger to patients of attempting to save too much money through “conventional efficiencies” such as staff cuts, he said in a speech at the NHS Confederation annual conference in Manchester.
What is needed, he said, was “radical” change, such as moving more care into the community.
Sir David said: “A drive for straightforward efficiencies in the system can put us in great danger.
“No matter how compassionate, how brilliant our nursing staff are – and the vast majority really are – it is really difficult to give frail elderly people with dementia the care they need on an acute medical ward. The answer is about transforming services.”
Sir David called on politicians to be “straightforward” with the public about the need for change and to support unpopular decisions such as closing hospital beds.
Last week Sir David told a committee of MPs that he was concerned NHS managers were trying to save money by making short-term staffing cuts, in particular specialist nurse posts, which would have long-term consequence for care.