But specialists are missing the incurable condition in thousands of case notes among patients who had been diagnosed in the year preceding their admission. The scandal means many are not receiving the right treatment and are discharged without help and guidance on medication.
Study leader Dr Andrew Sommerlad said: “People with dementia are more likely to be admitted to general hospitals for other illnesses, partly due to difficulties taking care of themselves, and once they’re in hospital, those with dementia tend to have longer stays and face more complications.
“Hospital records need to accurately reflect the patient’s condition so that doctors can tailor their care accordingly.”
Researchers tracked patients who were diagnosed with dementia and subsequently admitted to various general hospitals for another reason. Led by experts from University College London, the results of the 2016 study showed an improvement on 2008, when hospitals failed to recognise a dementia diagnosis in more than half of sufferers.
Dr Sommerlad, a Wellcome Trust research fellow from UCL’s division of psychiatry, added: “While it is great there is some improvement, a third of people with dementia are discharged from hospital without it being recognised that they have dementia.
“They may need help, for example, with remembering agreed new plans about their health and with remembering to take their medication, but this help cannot be given unless the condition is identified.”
Researchers studied 138,455 hospital admissions from 21,387 people between 2008 and 2016, including 37,329 admissions of 8,246 people who had known dementia before general hospital admission.
In the eight years hospitals recognised dementia in 63.3 per cent of inpatients with a previous diagnosis.
The study was published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal Of The Alzheimer’s Association.