More than one thousand people with dementia to spend festive period on a ward

Nurses have revealed fears over the safety of patients with dementia who will be unnecessarily spending Christmas on a ward.

Nurses have expressed fears over the safety of people with dementia 'stranded' in hospital for lengthy periods, after new figures showed more than one thousand people would spend Christmas unnecessarily on a ward.

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An investigation by the Alzheimer’s Society revealed that at least 1,400 people with dementia will spend the holiday on a hospital ward, despite being well enough to go home.

No alternative

A corresponding survey of nurses by the charity, in partnership with the RCN, found that one in ten nurses had seen people with dementia waiting in hospital for over a year, with no social care alternatives available.

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 were ‘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.

Both organisations are calling on the government for more funding in social care to help alleviate the problems.

RCN professional lead for the care of older people and dementia Dawne Garrett 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.’

Ms Garrett added that the college was concerned that no extra resources were announced for social care in last month’s budget.

'Jeopardising safety'

Alzheimer’s Society chief executive Jeremy Hughes 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 having to use 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.

‘Government attention must be focussed on social care, and pounds put behind their promises, to alleviate the pressure on our NHS hospitals, and the suffering of people with dementia on its wards.’

Campaign to fix care

The investigation analysed data from hospital-led audits at six NHS trusts in England and found that last year people with dementia spent 500,000 extra days in hospital, at a cost to the NHS of over £170 million. 

One trust in the South East said that over the time they ran the audit, people with dementia were spending ten times as long on hospital wards as those without the condition (68 days vs 6.8 days)

The charity is urging the public to join its Fix Dementia Care campaign and call on the government to properly fund social care.

Learn more about the campaign

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