A leading dementia charity has blamed the rising number of people with dementia being admitted to hospital in an emergency on a ‘collapsing social care system’.
The number of emergency admissions for dementia in England has increased by 35% in five years, new data published this week by Alzheimer’s Society found.
The charity argued a lack of appropriate care and care home places has contributed to the rise, which saw over 379,000 people with dementia end up in hospital as an emergency in 2017/18, compared to around 279,000 in 2012/13.
Alzheimer’s Society is now demanding that an extra £8 billion extra is given annually to social care alongside the introduction of free universal care ‘funded like schools and the NHS’.
It said the new figures show more than half of people with a dementia diagnosis in England went through emergency admission to hospital in 2017/18, and many did so multiple times.
The number of people with dementia still in hospital between a month and a year after an emergency admission also rose 6% from 2012, to 40,000 people in 2017/18.
The 100,000 extra admissions are costing the NHS £280m a year, the charity calculated.
‘Broken social care system’
Alzheimer’s Society chief executive Jeremy Hughes warned of the ‘stark reality’ that many people with dementia are ‘left to fall through the cracks in our broken social care system’.
People with dementia are often admitted with avoidable emergencies like falls, dehydration and infections because of ‘scarce, inadequate and costly social care’, he added.
Responding to the data, Dementia UK director of clinical services Paul Edwards said ‘timely support in the home can prevent’ these avoidable admissions.
A ‘long-term solution is desperately needed’ where specialist dementia nurses can help families ‘before they reach crisis point’, he continued.
‘This is all easier said than done – especially with a Government which has consistently skirted around the issue of dementia care.’
Care England chief executive Professor Martin Green said: ‘The numbers of people living with dementia who find themselves in A&E departments is a sad indictment on the Government’s failure to deliver a long-term solution for social care.
‘People living with dementia could be supported effectively in the community if the Government had a clear strategy to develop social care services, and a greater commitment to the prevention agenda.’
The number of nurses working in social care has fallen by 10,500 or 20% since 2012, according to a Skills for Care report published in 2019.
Meanwhile, the number of specialist dementia nurses – or Admiral nurses – only stands at 279 in the UK.
Admiral nurses work with people and families affected by dementia in a variety of settings from the community to care homes, hospitals and hospices.