An audit has shown that NHS hospital staff across England and Wales feel they lack the skills to deal with dementia patients, meaning they are falling short of acceptable standards of care.
To create the report the Royal College of Psychiatrists used data from 210 hospitals, ward level data from a sample of 145 wards, and over 2,000 staff questionnaires and observations of care on the wards.
The audit found that whilst services for dementia patients in hospitals are safe, they are falling short in important areas. Staff told reviewers that they felt they lacked the skills to deal with dementia patients, and less than a third said they had sufficient training.
According to the report, staff were seen ignoring patients’ requests for help and failing to greet or talk to patients during care, or explain what they were doing. Even basic help with activities like eating was found to be insufficient in some places.
Jeremy Hughes, the chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, said the report was "shocking" and "unacceptable".
Mostly dementia patients were not treated as individuals, the report said. It found that the layout and signage used in most hospitals is confusing for dementia patients, and staff failed to place family photographs or cards where they can be seen by the patient.
In addition, more than a quarter of people with dementia received antipsychotic medication in the hospital even though these medicines should not be prescribed.
Consequently, dementia patients tend to fare worse than other patients when they enter hospital, and they are less prepared for their discharge.
Professor Peter Crome, who led the review, said he hoped the review would lead to improvements in the coming years. He said: "This report provides further concrete evidence that the care of patients with dementia is in need of a radical shake-up."
Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said that from next year the government would be introducing a financial incentive to encourage the NHS in England to perform better.
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