The Alzheimer’s Society blamed a lack of social care funding for “turning wards into waiting rooms”, saying a £2bn shortfall in the budget meant there was not enough support for people with dementia.
The charity studied hospital audits and found that people with dementia stayed an extra 500,000 days in hospital despite being well enough to leave, which costs the NHS more than £170m – and this is a conservative estimate as only two out of three people with dementia have been diagnosed.
They worked with six hospital trusts across England to run audits on the proportion of people experiencing delayed transfers of care (DTOC) who had dementia.
On average, 25% of all those experiencing DTOC had dementia which they estimate amounts to 1,400 vulnerable people spending Christmas Day in hospital.
Alzheimer’s Society claim a lack funding is ‘turning wards into waiting rooms’
With such scarce social care funding, wards are being turned into waiting rooms, and safety is being jeopardised.
One trust in the South East told the researchers that people with dementia were spending ten times as long on hospital wards as those without the condition (68 days compared to 6.8 days)
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “With such scarce social care funding, wards are being turned into waiting rooms, and safety is being jeopardised.
“From the woman who spent two months on a bed in a corridor because there were no available care home places, to the man who died after months of waiting left him debilitated by hospital-acquired infections, people with dementia are repeatedly falling victim to a system that cannot meet their needs.
“One million people will have dementia by 2021, yet local authorities’ social care budgets are woefully inadequate, and no new money has been promised in the budget to cope with increasing demand.”
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He demanded more money for social care to reduce the pressure on hospitals.Longer than necessary stays in hospital can have severe consequences for patients, as they may become too frail to be discharged home.
Hospitals can also be upsetting and confusing environments for those with dementia, but as there is no cure or drugs to slow its progression, social care rather than the NHS is what the hundreds of thousands of people in the UK rely on every day.
Dawne Garrett, Royal College of Nursing Professional Lead for the Care of Older People and Dementia, said: “Nursing staff know better than anyone how often patients with dementia are stranded in hospital when they could be discharged, if only they had more social support.
“Hospital is not the best place for people living with dementia, where they are at risk of falling or contracting an infection.
“The College was very concerned to see no extra resources announced for social care in last month’s Budget, and backs Alzheimer’s Society’s call for increased funding for local authorities so that they can give more support to people leaving hospital”.
Nurses on the frontline are fearful of the safety of people with dementia while they’re stuck in hospital for lengthy periods, found the investigation.
It is estimated that 1,400 vulnerable people will be spending Christmas Day in hospital
One in 10 nurses surveyed have seen people with dementia waiting in hospital for over a year.One of the nurses surveyed described hospital as ‘one of the most confusing and upsetting environments for a patient with dementia’.
Another expressed concern that people with dementia ‘are much more likely to harm themselves or others in acute settings where they are not managed appropriately or able to have the attention they deserve to maintain their safety’.
Karen Moore, whose father had dementia and was stranded in hospital for six months, said: “Mum died of cancer while Dad was stuck in hospital, so I was grieving while also trying to sort out Dad’s care.
“It was a nightmare. The hospital was great, but it wasn’t the right environment for Dad and we were under pressure to free-up a bed.“But because his needs fluctuated so much it was impossible to get him sorted with social care, so he was stuck in hospital for six months.
“Dad got infection after infection; it was like he was being taken down by a pack of wolves. Eventually, he died on the ward.”
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “We estimate adult social care faces an annual funding gap of £2.3bn by 2020.
One in 10 nurses surveyed have seen people with dementia waiting in hospital for over a year
“It was hugely disappointing that the Chancellor found money for the NHS but nothing for adult social care in the Autumn Budget.
“Spending plans for the new NHS funding should be agreed with local government to ensure its most effective use locally.“
Councils are doing all they can to get people out of hospital safely and quickly and delays attributable to social care are down 7.2 cent from July to September.
“Councils are also playing a leading role in improving the lives of people with dementia and their families through all of the services they provide, including housing, transport, leisure services, social care, public health and community safety.“
However, fundamental changes to the way we fund adult social care are needed if we are to deliver a long-term sustainable system that works for everyone in society and meets their needs with safe and high-quality services.”