Counting the cost: caring for people with dementia on hospital wards

This Alzheimer’s Society report provides evidence from over 2,400 people with dementia, carers and nurses on the quality of dementia care provided on general wards in hospitals.

The report’s recommendations are for commissioners, providers and professionals. They will work to bring the standard of dementia care provided on all general wards up to the quality of the best and to ensure that people with dementia are only in hospital when appropriate.


Key findings:

  • People with dementia over 65 years of age are currently using up to one quarter of hospital beds at any one time.
  • 47% of respondents said that being in hospital had a negative effect on the general physical health of the person with dementia, for example weight loss.
  • 54% of respondents said that being in hospital had a negative effect on the symptoms of dementia, such as increased confusion.
  • 77% of respondents were dissatisfied with the quality of dementia care.
  • Key areas of dissatisfaction as identified by carers were: lack of recognition or understanding of dementia; lack of person-centred care; not being helped to eat and drink; lack of social interaction; not as much involvement in decision-making as would like; and not being treated with dignity and respect.
  • 89% of nursing staff identified working with people with dementia as challenging.
  • Over half of nursing staff had not received any pre-registration training or work-based learning opportunities
  • People with dementia stay far longer in hospital than other people who go in for the same procedure. Increased length of stay is placing financial pressure on the NHS.
  • If people with dementia were supported to leave hospital one week earlier than they currently do, savings of hundreds of millions of pounds might be achievable. This could be more effectively invested in workforce development and community services outside hospitals.

In response to the report the Alzheimer’s Society is calling for a reduction in the number of people with dementia being cared for in hospitals and for society as a whole to vegin to change the approach to care for people with dementia to one of dignity and respect. The Society wants hospitals to identify a senior clinician to take the lead for quality improvement in dementia and for defining the care pathway. In addition the Society wants hospitals to commission specialist liaison older people’s mental health teams to facilitate the management and care of people with dementia in hospitals.