Lack of care for dementia prompts calls for hospital improvements

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An audit by the Royal College of Psychiatrists has found that dementia patients are suffering due to lack of care by hospitals in England and Wales.

The study of 210 hospitals, the first of its kind, says that although services are safe, there are failures in areas such as communicating with families and poor personal care for patients.

Lack of care for dementia patients

The report says too little is done to provide access for dementia sufferers to specialist services, or liaise with community services to prepare for their eventual discharge.

The report also says that a vulnerable group of patients are being let down by poor planning arrangements and lack of basic help with eating and other essential activities.

The reviewers heard from staff who believed they lacked the skills and training to deal with dementia patients. However, failings were also attributed to shortfalls in simple, helpful measures that should have been second nature, such as placing family photographs where patients could see them or displaying more visible signage.

Although a process for sharing information with families was shown to be in place at fewer than 50% of the hospitals, the report acknowledges that many procedures are improving in light of the interim findings.

The review leader, Prof Peter Crome, hoped this would lead to better practices in the coming years. But he added: "This report provides further concrete evidence that the care of patients with dementia is in need of a radical shake-up."

Andrew Chidgey, head of policy at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "What is important to note here is people are not going into hospital for other things [than dementia] but when they get there they often stay far longer than other patients with the same condition, and many callers to our helpline are saying people are coming out of hospital worse than when they went in."

"Unless we get this new system in place and help people before their needs get worse, we are going to see more people in hospital or care homes far too early."

Neil Fearn of Simpson Millar LLP called for sweeping change to hospital procedures to offset potentially greater future costs. "This survey carries the weight of one of Britain's most authoritative mental health bodies. It proves that more and more sufferers of dementia are being failed due to basic lack of care," he said. "Unless things change fundamentally, the financial pressures on a cash-strapped NHS will get worse."

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said the government was determined to improve standards, introducing from 2012 a financial incentive to encourage hospitals in England to screen patients for dementia on admission for other conditions.

He added: "The result of this audit should be a must-read for every medical and nursing director. It is time for the NHS to put in place the training and support that improves the care and treatment of people with dementia and saves money too."


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