Hospital Dr News

Rising admissions to A&E for people with dementia due to ‘threadbare’ social care system

Tens of thousands of people with dementia each year are being admitted to A&E because inadequate social care is leaving them unprotected from falls and infections.

That’s the conclusion of an Alzheimer’s Society investigation which finds there were over 50,000 avoidable emergency admissions into NHS hospitals for people with dementia last year.

The investigation, which involved FOI requests to NHS Trusts in England and a survey of frontline paramedics, revealed a sharp rise in emergency admissions over the last five years – up 70% since 2012.

While an ageing population and better data recording in hospitals has contributed in part to the rise, much of the 70% increase is thought to be due to inadequate care in the community piling pressure on A&E and ambulance services.

In a similar time period there has been a 40% cut to council budgets responsible for social care funding, and the number of people accessing support has been steadily dropping, despite more people living with dementia than ever before.

With no drugs to cure or slow down the condition, it’s social care not the NHS that people with dementia rely on every day. But lack of time and training among the overworked and underpaid care workforce means people with dementia aren’t getting the support they need, either in their homes or in residential care, leading to emergency admissions.


Frontline staff confirmed the rise in avoidable emergency admissions of people with dementia, with three quarters (75%) of paramedics surveyed reporting that the problem has become more common in recent years. Half (50%) reported dealing with instances every week, and 1 in 5 (21%) said they see the situation every single day.

Alzheimer’s Society Chief Executive Jeremy Hughes warned: “Successive governments have shirked the issue of our threadbare social care system. Starved of the care they need, people with dementia end up in A&E as a last resort, disrupting their home life and forcing them to struggle in crowded hospital wards. It shouldn’t and needn’t be like this.”

College of Paramedics Trustee Martin Berry added: “Paramedics and Urgent & Emergency Care colleagues continue to see a rise in numbers of people with dementia requiring unscheduled care in the community. Often vulnerable, these patients require timely multi-agency support for their health and care needs. The College of Paramedics welcomes Alzheimer’s Society’s report and strongly supports its recommendations of timely, preventative and integrated care, to manage more patients safely in the community and prevent unnecessary hospital admissions.”

The charity’s report, based on testimony and evidence from people affected by dementia, social care professionals and dementia lead nurses, outlines urgent areas for Government to address:

  • Access – everyone with dementia to have access to timely, preventative and integrated care and support
  • Quality – all health and social care workers to be provided the training and support they need to deliver quality dementia care
  • Cost – the cost of additional care charges for a health condition such as dementia to be covered by the state
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