Families'anger over Failure of Dementia Care

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Byline: Jenny Hope Medical Correspondent

RADICAL reform of dementia care in hospitals and the community was demanded yesterday after damning revelations about poor standards.

The first National Audit of Dementia found a 'picture of low levels of performance' in hospitals, with poorly trained or untrained staff struggling to cope.

The audit highlights the anger felt by families of dementia sufferers.

Malcolm Weston, whose 87-year-old father Victor is in hospital, said staff seemed interested only in trying to discharge him to free up bed space.

He added: 'The NHS is driven by cost - it costs them too much to keep him in hospital where he would get the specialist care that he needs.'

Professor John Bailey, whose 80-year-old wife, Marion, has dementia, said: 'There is no nursing happening in our hospitals - we have to get back to basic bedside nursing.'

Up to a quarter of hospital beds are occupied at any time by patients with dementia, most of them elderly.

But no hospital managed to achieve 'essential' standards, with many failing to take simple steps that could lessen patients' distress.

People with dementia can become agitated, distressed or aggressive in hospital because of the environment, aspects of care, illness or injury, or their dementia getting worse. Yet only a third of staff felt they had sufficient training to manage dementia patients.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists audit of 210 hospitals in England and Wales follows a series of reports showing a postcode lottery of treatment and care both in and of hospital.

Professor Peter Crome, chairman of the audit steering group, said: 'This report provides further concrete evidence that the care of patients with dementia in hospital is in need of a radical shake-up.'

Andrew Chidgey, of the Alzheimer's Society, said 750,000 people in the UK had dementia and this will rise to more than a million by 2021. He said the charity regularly heard of people with Alzheimer's who were discharged from hospital in a worse state than when they went in.

He added: 'Unless we see a radical change in the way this is happening, we are going to see not just more people with dementia not getting the care they need, but a Health Service which is under incredible pressure because of the financial situation.

'People are not going into hospital for treatment of dementia, they are going in for other things.

'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.'

Dr Ros Altmann, of over-50s group Saga, said: 'Yet another report confirms that our system of social care is in crisis. As our population is ageing rapidly, this will only get worse.

'Perhaps politicians are hoping that the care crisis will go away - if so, they are sadly mistaken. Warm words and longterm plans will not deliver decent care - radical reform and recognition of the problem are required. …