The health and social care system is “struggling” to care properly for people with dementia, the health watchdog said.
People with dementia living in care homes are more likely to be admitted to hospital with avoidable conditions - such as urinary tract infections, pressure sores and dehydration - than those who don’t, the Care Quality Commission said.
Once in hospital, patients with dementia are more likely to stay there longer, be readmitted or to die there, a new CQC report found.
The CQC report, based on 20,000 inspections conducted in 2012, found that in 78 out of 151 local health authorities in England people with dementia who lived in care homes were admitted to hospital for an avoidable reason “significantly more” than people without dementia.
In 96 per cent of hospital trusts people with dementia stayed longer than those without the condition and in 85 per cent of trusts, people with dementia were “significantly more likely” to die in hospital than people without dementia, the report adds.
The CQC called for “better identification of dementia” and comprehensive training for care staff after the report also found that almost a third of hospital admissions for people with the condition did not include a record of their dementia, even though it had been identified in the past.
The Alzheimer’s Society added that hospitals should drive up care standards by appointing a “dementia champion” to each ward.
Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the charity, said: “This report lays bare the scandalous extent to which the NHS is failing people with dementia. Hospitals are supposed to be places of recovery but people with dementia are going in too often, staying too long and dying in a hospital bed much more than those with any other condition.
“A quarter of hospital beds are occupied by someone with dementia. Staff better trained in dementia care will reduce the length of hospital stays and save the NHS millions of pounds.
“Tolerating inaction on dementia care even a day longer is tantamount to playing Russian roulette with the lives of people with the condition. If we’re to avoid the next Mid-Staffs we need hospitals to commit to improve care now.”
The CQC’s Care Update also raises concerns about the quality of services for people with mental health issues and learning disabilities
The watchdog said that “too many” independent mental health and learning disability services are not delivering care that “puts people first”.
CQC chief executive David Behan said: “The majority of services are delivering good quality care, however care providers must do more to make sure that care is based on people’s individual needs. This Care Update draws attention to two areas where this is not happening.
“The people in charge of care homes and hospitals must work better, individually and together to ensure the right services are in place for people with dementia and their staff must be trained to identify dementia.
“It’s six months since recommendations were made following the abuse of people with learning disabilities at Winterbourne View. While there has been some improvement by those delivering services for people with mental health problems and learning disabilities, there is still some way to go and CQC expected improvements to be made more quickly. We are still seeing too many independent mental health and learning disability services not delivering care that puts people first.
“A patient-centred culture of care needs strong leadership, openness and transparency, and CQC will look closely at this in the coming year, particularly in those services caring for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”
NHS Confederation chief executive Mike Farrar added: “The fact that care home residents who have dementia are more likely to require hospital treatment for avoidable conditions than people without dementia is wholly unacceptable.
“The number of people with dementia is rising, and is expected to reach one million in the next 30 years, so we must prepare properly now. The changes required need not be expensive to implement or to deliver, but they do require a step change in behaviours, values, training, and importantly, improvements to the way the service is set up to make sure that no one falls between the cracks.”