By: May Bulman Social Affairs Correspondent
Lack of social care funding ‘turning wards into waiting rooms’ as figures shows dementia patients are delayed up to 10 times longer than hospital patients without the condition
More than 1,400 people with dementia who are well enough to go home will be stranded in hospital on Christmas Day, a charity has warned.
The Alzheimer’s Society said the lack of social care funding was “turning wards into waiting rooms” as an investigation they carried out revealed dementia patients were delayed up to 10 times longer than patients without the condition.
There is no cure for dementia and no drugs to slow its progression, meaning hundreds of thousands of sufferers in the UK rely on social care rather than the NHS.
But the Alzheimer’s Society said a £2bn shortfall in social care funding meant there was not enough support for people with dementia.
An analysis of hospital audits by the charity found people with dementia stayed an extra 500,000 days in hospital despite being well enough to leave — costing the NHS more than £170m.
The society said this was a conservative estimate as only two out of three people with dementia have been diagnosed.
Longer than necessary stays in hospital can have negative consequences for patients, causing some to become too frail to be discharged home. Hospitals can also be upsetting and confusing environments for those with dementia, according to the charity
Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, warned that “scarce” social care funding meant wards were being turned into waiting rooms and safety was being jeopardised.
He added: “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 falling victim to a system that cannot meet their needs.
Mr Hughes demanded more money for social care to reduce the pressure on hospitals, adding: “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.”
Karen Moore’s dementia-suffering father and was stranded in hospital for six months, during which time her mother also died of cancer, so I was grieving while also trying to sort out her father’s care.
”It was a nightmare. The hospital was great, but it wasn’t the right environment for Dad and we were under pressure to free-up a bed. But because his needs fluctuated so much it was impossible to get him sorted with social care, so he was stuck in hospital for six months,” she said.
”Dad got infection after infection; it was like he was being taken down by a pack of wolves. Eventually, he died on the ward.“
Responding to analysis by the Alzheimer’s Society, Margaret Willcox, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), said: “As part of a caring society, people with dementia need and deserve specialist care and support. A busy acute hospital can add to their confusion and disorientation as they thrive better when in familiar surroundings, especially their own home, with people they know.”
She added that the report served as evidence of the “urgent” need to plug an estimated £2.5 billion funding gap facing adult social care up to 2020, which she said was impacting now on thousands of people in need of reliable, personal care — including those with dementia.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, meanwhile said: “These tragic stories of people fit to leave but stuck in hospital over Christmas reinforces our urgent call for genuinely new funding for adult social care in the Local Government Finance Settlement.
“We estimate adult social care faces an annual funding gap of £2.3 billion by 2020. It was hugely disappointing that the Chancellor found money for the NHS but nothing for adult social care in the Autumn Budget. Spending plans for the new NHS funding should be agreed with local government to ensure its most effective use locally.”
Cllr Seccombe urged that councils were doing “all they can” to get people out of hospital safely and quickly, urging that delays attributable to social care are down 7.2 cent from July to September.
She added: “Councils are also playing a leading role in improving the lives of people with dementia and their families through all of the services they provide, including housing, transport, leisure services, social care, public health and community safety.
“However, fundamental changes to the way we fund adult social care are needed if we are to deliver a long-term sustainable system that works for everyone in society and meets their needs with safe and high-quality services.”
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “This is a very small survey based on statistics from September and isn’t representative of the actual situation.
“No one should be stuck in hospital when their treatment has finished, that’s why we’ve given an extra £2 billion funding for social care over the next three years and next summer we will publish plans to reform social care to ensure it is sustainable for the future.”