Dan Parton (19/12/11)hopes the release of a new report into dementia care in hospitals finally leads to some much-needed changes
The news that the National Audit for Dementia has called for a shake-up of hospital care for people with dementia will come as no surprise to those working in the sector - we've been here before with this one.
The Audit found that many staff lacked basic training in dementia and only 6% of hospitals have a dementia care pathway.Meanwhile, at a lower level - but often what can make a big difference to a person with dementia - 59% of wards reported that personal items, such as family photographs or cards, were not placed where the patient could see them for reassurance.
If all this seems familiar, it's because it is. This report hasstriking similarities to the Alzheimer's Society's 2009 report'Counting the Cost'. It seems little has changed in the interveningtwo and a half years.
But, given that up to a quarter of acute hospital beds taken upby people with dementia, and 97% of nursing staff and nursingmanagers admit that they are usually caring for someone withdementia, according to the Alzheimer's Society, it seems odd thatprovision for dementia care is seemingly so poor - and has remainedso.
The recommendations the Audit makes are also quite similar tothose made by the Alzheimer's Society. They include all staff givenbasic training in dementia awareness, putting in place a seniorclinical lead for dementia and personalising bed areas. Not thathard to do, you would think.
So, will those with power in government and the NHS listen tothis report? You have to hope they will.
The fundamental point is that it is about improving care forpeople; everyone should have access to the best possible treatmentthat takes account of and is sensitive to their condition. Afterall, they are still people, not just someone with dementia. Surelythis is at the heart of the NHS?
But I'm not naïve enough to believe that this will be the keydriving force for change. If it was, it would have happened bynow. No, for change to happen will require evidence of costsavings that would be made if the Audit's recommendations wereimplemented; in these austere times, bottom-line savings are oftenthe way to make people take notice.
But implementing these changes could save money. For instance,if hospital care is improved through better training and moreperson-centred care, then people with dementia could be releasedearlier - currently they stay in hospital up to twice as long asother people who go in for the same procedures - it could savemillions each year.
Again, this point was made in 'Counting the Cost', and it isperhaps more pertinent now as budgets are being squeezed, and willbe for some years to come. The evidence of the need for change ismounting; it is now up to those in power to act.