Over 1,000 elderly patients in Bucks missing dementia tests

Over 1,000 elderly patients in Bucks missing dementia tests

Published by Charlotte Fisher at 5:41am 13th August 2019.

More than 1,000 elderly patients at Buckinghamshire Healthcare have missed out on important tests to see if they are at risk of dementia, figures reveal.

The charity Age UK says that hospitals must use robust methods to assess dementia, to help the growing numbers of people at risk of the condition.

NHS England data shows that 6,604 people aged 75 or over were admitted as an emergency for more than three days to the trust, in the 12 months to April.

These patients should be asked within three days of being admitted if they have felt more forgetful in the past year, to establish if they may have dementia or delirium.

Those who show signs of the conditions should be more formally assessed and, if necessary, referred to specialist services.

But staff at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust did not assess 1,814 patients.

It means only 73% were asked the question, well below the NHS’s target of assessing 90% of elderly patients admitted this way.

The trust’s performance is well below the trend across England, where 86% of patients were asked the question over the period.

Dementia refers to a range of symptoms relating to the loss of brain function, including memory loss and difficulty thinking.

Delerium – a separate condition – can cause someone to become more confused than normal.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said it is crucial that medical staff use robust approaches to assess dementia, as hospitals see a rise in cases.

She added:

“Hospital staff must also have a good understanding of delirium, which can be misdiagnosed as dementia.

“Finally, it is essential that accurate information is passed back to a person’s GP, so the care they need at home is available to them.”

The rate of patients being assessed varied widely throughout the country – nine trusts recorded having asked all patients the question.

But ten trusts reported asking less than half of patients.

Dr Andrew Goddard, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said:

“It is important that we strive to identify patients with dementia as early as possible, and whilst the screening test is not perfect, we should still aim to use it in everyone that is at risk.

“It may be that the assessment is being done but not recorded. Either way, we need to do better.”

An NHS spokesperson said:

“Spotting dementia in a timely way – whether in hospital or the community – means people get the care they need, when they need it, so it’s good news that more people than ever before are having their condition identified and their treatment delivered.

“As the population ages, the NHS is having to run to keep up as dementia becomes a challenge for more and more families, which is why the NHS Long Term Plan sets out a blueprint for older people’s care, and makes early diagnosis and treatment for major health problems a top priority.”

The total number of patients in the data excludes those who could not be assessed due to a medical condition, such as a coma.

The number who were assessed includes those already diagnosed with dementia or delirium when they arrived at hospital.

We're waiting for a statement from Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust.

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