Emergency admissions for dementia patients aged over 65 have reached an alarming record high. Nationally, there were 368,044 emergency admissions in 2017/18, the highest since records began in 2012/13. As a result, many Accident and Emergency departments across the country have seen an increase in the number of dementia patients being looked after by A & E staff – even though many are not physically ill.
The increase is thought to be due to social care services struggling to cope with the high numbers of dementia patients in their care, leading to what researchers see as avoidable trips to hospital. With no cure or respite from the advance of the disease, the pressure on social care, which is what so many with dementia rely on every day is thought to be contributing to a situation whereby vulnerable people are at times left unprotected from falls and infections. This, in turn, is leading to an increase in emergency admissions.
The number of emergency admissions across Birmingham has risen by more than a third in six years from 5,076 in 2012/13. A quarter of the emergency admissions are for one night or less. This increase reflects a national trend. Figures from Public Health England show that in the area run by Essex County Council, 2174 dementia patients were looked after in A and E for a day or less in 2012/13 but this had increased to 3,156 by 2017/18. This level of increase in such a short space of time is putting huge pressure on local A and E departments and is unsustainable long term.
The NHS admits that whilst some admissions may be entirely medically necessary, many could and should be avoided, particularly because a sudden change in the surroundings of people with dementia can lead to an increased level of anxiety and stress for an individual.
Closer working between County Councils and the NHS is hoping to address this worrying trend – with more funding and better planning, councils should be able to provide suitable accommodation and support for people with dementia and those caring for people in the community. There is hope that this will both ease the pressure on NHS resources and the distress to those with dementia caused by needless admissions.
According to a Department of Health and Social Care spokesman, local authorities have been given access to up to 3.9 billion more dedicated funding for adult social care in 2019/20 so there is hope that as the number of people diagnosed continues to rise. He comments, “We are committed to the integration of health, social care, and public services, which must work seamlessly together to deliver better quality care, including through the Better Care Fund which is helping people to live independently in their communities for longer.