News ID: 264688
Published: 1255 GMT January 22, 2020

Emergency dementia admissions to hospitals up 35% in five years

Emergency dementia admissions to hospitals up 35% in five years
WILL OLIVER/EPA

The number of people with dementia being admitted to hospital as a medical emergency has risen by more than a third in five years, figures have shown, with a lack of social care blamed for the increase.

National Health Service (NHS) data showed that hospitals in England recorded more than 379,000 admissions of people with the condition during 2017/18. That was 100,000 more than the number of such patients admitted in 2012/13 – a 35 percent jump in five years, theguardian.com reported.

The Alzheimer’s Society, which obtained the figures, said they meant that more than half of everyone in England with dementia had been admitted to hospital at least once — and sometimes many times — during 2017/18.

“This is the stark reality of many people with dementia left to fall through the cracks in our broken social care system,” said Jeremy Hughes, the chief executive.

Falls, dehydration and infections are thought to be the commonest reasons for those with the condition ending up in hospital overnight. Hughes blamed the spike in admissions on social care — support for people at home or in care homes — being “scarce, inadequate and costly”.

The 100,000 extra admissions are costing the NHS £280 million a year, the Alzheimer’s Society has calculated.

Figures it collated from the NHS’s hospital episodes statistics data collection system also showed that the number of people with dementia who spend at least a month in hospital topped 40,000 in 2017/18, at a cost of £165 million.

“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 twice as long in hospital as needed, confused and scared,” added Hughes.

The charity said it knew of many cases where lack of social care prolonged a dementia patient’s time in hospital unnecessarily. They include a woman whose husband had to spend eight months of one year in hospital when he suffered multiple infections and falls, unable to return home, because no assessment was made about the level of care he would need once he was discharged.

“The system is not working and these figures reveal how it is letting down people with dementia and putting our hospitals under unnecessary and intolerable strain. The social care crisis is harming patient care,” said Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation.

 “The NHS and social care are sister services — when one does not work, the other suffers.”

Deborah Alsina, chief executive of Independent Age, a charity that campaigns on issues affecting older people, said the rise in hospital admissions by dementia sufferers was “very worrying. It is unacceptable that people can end up waiting for up to a year in hospital owing to a lack of appropriate care and support.”

She backed the Alzheimer’s Society’s call for urgent and decisive action by the government to improve the crumbling social care system. Boris Johnson has pledged that a solution is among his key priorities.

Hughes urged Sajid Javid, the chancellor, to allocate £8 billion for social care in his budget on March 11 and make personal social care free in England, as it already is in Scotland.

   
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