Call for urgent action over provision of dementia care

Patricia Winchester..Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (38041968)

THE government is failing to keep pace with the growing demand for dementia care, which is expected to double by 2043, charities have said.

Patricia Winchester, of My Voice, and Claudine Snape, of Dementia Jersey, have warned that the challenges are already significant and will only worsen without urgent action.

Both chief executives have expressed concern that elderly Islanders are being left stranded in hospital settings due to a lack of facilities in the community, which puts a huge strain on the workforce.

They have called on the government to take action by reopening specialist dementia wards and improving care for patients.

A new dementia strategy is due to be published in June – many months after originally promised and without any allocated funding.

Speaking in the States earlier this month, Health Minister Tom Binet said the plan would identify “where there is a requirement for additional funding, and what can be delivered with current resources”.

Oak and Maple wards at St Saviour’s Hospital, which both closed in 2020, provided specialist care for advanced dementia patients whose needs were considered too labour-intensive for care homes.

The only remaining unit focused on caring for people over the age of 65 suffering from advanced memory problems is Beech Ward at Clinique Pinel in St Saviour – which is designed to be a short-term assessment ward.

Ms Winchester said the closure of the specialist wards created a domino effect and added to the ongoing problem of older patients becoming trapped in the hospital while they await onward care elsewhere.

“They are not living in a homely environment that can be personalised. They are living in a clean but stark clinical environment,” she said.

Ms Winchester added that she was aware of a case where a patient had been stuck on Beech Ward for more than three years.

The situation does not only impact patients – it is also having a knock-on effect on families, hospital staff and the wider healthcare system.

Ms Winchester said: “Hospital staff become frustrated care staff, rather than using their own specialist skills.

“In some cases, these patients may require close one-to-one support, the cost of which is immense.”

She made the comments after Deputy Binet said last month that funding had not been allocated to a wraparound dementia strategy to support patients, families and caregivers – which had been called for over the course of a decade – as well as other mental-health strategies years in the making.

Ms Winchester said: “The point of the strategy was to identify what is being done well, analyse where the gaps lie and produce a plan to efficiently and co-operatively deliver the range of services required.

“And the funding for the strategy was to ensure services are joined up and ready for the problems which lie ahead, not just wait for them to hit.”

Ms Snape said that the news of the lack of funding had left her with deep concerns.

“I’m stunned the requested funding for the dementia strategy was turned down, given how widespread, expensive and distressing current problems are.

“We urgently need a budget for training and more respite options for carers now.”

Ms Snape added: “It’s also vital we look to the future and scale up our plans, bearing in mind dementia is the fastest-growing disease in the Island and is set to become the most expensive in the UK by 2030.

“To proceed with no funding to support the dementia strategy feels incredibly short-sighted and is devastating news for people with dementia and their carers, who urgently need change.

“There is an unacceptable number of people with dementia stuck in hospital for long periods of time, a lack of capacity from care agencies and residential homes to cater for people with dementia and poor understanding of the condition by many professional staff.”

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