New 'dementia atlas' highlights areas with low quality services and patient care but fails to suggest solutions.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt recently published an online ‘atlas’ that highlights the unacceptable variations in how elderly dementia patients are treated by the NHS, but since the media photo calls he has delivered no concrete proposal for how dementia care will be improved or how it will be paid for.
'People living with dementia deserve the best possible care,' said Hunt. 'And this new dementia atlas is designed to drive improvements across the country.
‘By publishing the current levels of care, we are shining a spotlight on areas where there is still work to be done, while highlighting where we can learn from best practice.’
What he doesn’t say is that the variations show that indeed a lot of work has to be done in many parts of the country if ‘best practice’ is to be widespread. NHS guidelines say every patient should have a face-to-face meeting at least once a year to have their care plan reviewed. As dementia is a progressive condition this delay in review can have extremely serious consequences.
The atlas shows that fewer than 50 per cent of dementia patients in Somerset receive this, while in North East Lincolnshire this figure is 86 per cent.
There are also worrying variations in emergency hospital admissions of dementia patients. In Bradford, 6,000 dementia patients were admitted for every 100,000 people over the age of 65 in 2014/15, the highest rate in the country. In Croydon the figure was just 1,840 per 100,000.
The new Atlas has five different categories for how good an area is for dementia patients, including prevention, diagnosis and support as well as “living well” and “dying well”. Some rural areas score well on Government indicators while many inner city areas are worse off. Cornwall and Devon, Cumbria and coastal areas of East Anglia are best at allowing patients to be treated in care homes rather than in hospitals.
Such inconsistencies in the quality of current treatment of dementia patients is unacceptable, and even more worrying given that approximately 850,000 Britons now suffer from dementia, but the number is predicted to soar to one million by 2025 and two million by 2050.
George McNamara of the Alzheimer’s Society said: ‘Far too often people with dementia are being let down by a system that doesn’t provide for them, denying them access to vital care and support that could significantly improve quality of life.
‘The atlas exposes varied care, with some areas reporting much higher numbers of emergency hospital admissions. Hospitals are frightening and unsettling places for people with dementia, so we need to do all we can do reduce unnecessary and potentially harmful admissions.’
Caroline Abrahams, of Age UK, said the atlas showed ‘an unacceptable postcode lottery of care. We must continue efforts to improve access and quality of care for the growing number living with dementia.’
Final Choices believes that rather than publishing these inconsistencies during the holiday season, the Government should understand the seriousness of the dementia epidemic facing this country and set up a major review of how the NHS will provide consistent levels of acceptable treatment to the increasing number of dementia patients and how this treatment will be funded over the next 20 to 30 years. There is a surging tide in dementia which cannot be held back.
The atlas – which makes use of official statistics from NHS Digital and Public Health England, and can be found at https://shapeatlas.net/dementia