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Dementia care in hospitals improving but staff can't always access specialist support

Article By: Sue Learner

Hospitals in England and Wales have taken steps to improve their dementia care, with over two-thirds of carers rating care as excellent or very good. However staff said they are not always able to access specialist dementia support, especially out of hours.

The National Dementia Audit found that three-quarters of carers said the person with dementia was treated with respect by hospital staff.

In addition, it revealed that ninety-six per cent of hospitals now have a training framework for dementia care, up from 23 per cent, compared to 2011 and ninety-four per cent of hospitals have created dementia champions to lead change and support staff.

At least a quarter of hospital beds are occupied by people with dementia. Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Society, called the spread of dementia training frameworks and the introduction of dementia champions in hospitals “encouraging first steps in addressing the challenges of good dementia care for all hospital patients”.

He added: “But this audit also reveals how much still needs to be done, even in such basic areas of nutrition and hydration for the quarter of all patients who have dementia.

“Our Fix Dementia Care campaign revealed the quality of hospital care for people with dementia can be extremely variable. Many end up falling while in hospital, being discharged at night or being marooned in hospital despite their medical treatment having finished. In the worst cases people with dementia are staying in hospital seven times longer than other patients over the age of 65.”

Mr Hughes wants to see the recommendations from the report being taken forward, and all hospitals continuing to work on the quality of care they offer people with dementia.

The Alzheimer’s Society’s Fix Dementia Care investigation previously uncovered national variation in the quality of hospital dementia care across England.

Nearly a fifth of staff surveyed said patients with dementia had nutritional needs met only some of the time, and five per cent said their needs were not met. Three quarters of staff said they could obtain food 24/7 for their patients. Food outside of regular mealtimes is necessary for people with dementia as many patients forget to eat or only eat little and often, because dementia has disrupted their sense of routine.

The National Audit of Dementia reviewed case notes of 10,047 patients with a diagnosis or current history of dementia and questionnaires from 14,416 staff and 4,664 carers from 199 hospitals across England and Wales.

The audit is managed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in partnership with organisations representing healthcare professionals, people with dementia and carers, including Alzheimer’s Society. It was commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) as part of the National Clinical Audit and Patient Outcomes Programme (NCAPOP).


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