Anyone who has a relative with dementia will know that the hospital admissions process is fraught and bewildering. Often, admissions involve being held in A & E or holding bays, sometimes on trolleys in corridors for hours while being found a bed. Ultimately, while they may be treated for, say, a chest infection, the underlying health issue, dementia, will not and currently cannot be treated. New data published today by Alzheimer’s Society reveals the strain on the NHS of people with dementia unnecessarily ending up in hospitals, which the charity blames on the collapsing social care system.
There were 36,055 emergency admissions of people with dementia across the South West in 2017/18, an increase of 42% (25,355 in 2013/14) in just five years, and higher than the national average of just over 35%.
Across England, the latest statistics show there were 379,000 emergency admissions, up by almost 100,000 over the same period.
The number of people with dementia who end up stranded in hospital for up to a year after an emergency admission in England also rose 6% from 2012/13, with 40,000 people with dementia stuck longer than a month in 2017/18.
The rising figures mean more than half of all people with a dementia diagnosis in England went through emergency admission to hospital in 2017/18 many multiple times.
Alzheimer’s Society also estimates that the total spend for the NHS of the increase in emergency admissions of people with dementia in 2017/18 was over £280 million. Additionally, the 40,000 people spending between a month and a year stranded in a hospital in 2017/18 cost the NHS over £165m.
While the ageing population may be accountable for some of the increase, Alzheimer’s Society blames much of the rise on the scarcity of appropriate care support, and the paucity of care home places able to provide specialist dementia care.
Alzheimer’s Society’s South West Head of Region, Marion Child, warned that this is “the stark reality of many people with dementia left to fall through the cracks in our broken social care system”, as people with dementia fall prey to avoidable emergencies like falls, dehydration and infections because of scarce, inadequate and costly social care.
Alzheimer’s Society hears every day through its Fix Dementia Care campaign about the human cost of the underfunded social care system – from the 82-year-old rushed to hospital in a critical condition, barely conscious and hallucinating because carers failed to notice or treat an infection, to the woman whose husband spent two-thirds of a year in hospital due to multiple infections and falls, unable to return home because they were provided with no care assessment or care support.
Alzheimer’s Society is today demanding £8bn per year allocated in the spring budget, and for cross-party talks to begin immediately so an agreement can be reached for free universal care, funded like schools and the NHS to give people with dementia the dignity, security and fundamental care they deserve.
Marion Child, Alzheimer’s Society’s South West Head of Region, said: “People with dementia are all too often being dumped in hospital and left there for long stays. Many are only admitted because there’s no social care support to keep them safe at home. They are commonly spending more than twice as long in hospital as needed, confused and scared. This costs the NHS millions of pounds for the want of properly funded social care.”
“The estimated 850,000 people with dementia and their families across the UK heard the Prime Minister’s promise to fix social care. They expect action.”
Alzheimer’s Society champions the rights of everyone affected by dementia and is calling on its supporters to sign up to its Fix Dementia Care campaign by visiting alzheimers.org.uk/fix