Struggling councils failing people with dementia, study reports

Imelda Redmond, national director, Healthwatch England

Overstretched councils are struggling to meet legal duties in social care services for people with dementia, Freedom of Information data has revealed.

Healthwatch England asked 152 councils across England with social care responsibilities about reviews and reassessments for people with dementia.

Of the 97 authorities that provided information, it was found that only 45% of people with dementia got a care review in 2017/18.

A quarter of people with dementia had to have an urgent, or unplanned review, because an emergency or sudden change of circumstance meant their support needs had changed.

Healthwatch England found that 65% of completed reviews led to a full reassessment. However, half of these reassessments led to no change in the level of care and support.

The report, Why it’s important to review the care of people with dementia, said: ‘This is concerning and may suggest that professionals are either inconsistently interpreting the eligibility criteria, or incorrectly referring people for a reassessment.’

Under the Care Act, which came into force in April 2015, councils must ensure that their social care services are responsive to people’s specific needs. To do this, they must review people’s care plans at least once a year.

The report said if reviews were not in place, people with dementia would not get the care they needed.

In 2017/18, one third of people who used dementia support services got no review at all, the research found.

Over 850,000 people live with dementia in the UK, with the Alzheimer’s Society estimating that two million people will live with the condition by 2051.

Imelda Redmond, national director of Healthwatch England, said: ‘Reviews and assessments are about more than just ticking boxes on a form. Over half of reviews for people with dementia were missed by councils last year, so we simply don’t know if people are getting the support they need.

‘The fact that councils are struggling to meet the Care Act requirement to deliver care reviews should provide a real wake-up call to us all.’

Describing the findings as ‘downright appalling’ Jeremy Hughes, Alzheimer’s Society chief executive officer, added: ‘Decades of squeezed government funding has left the social care system on its knees. With one person developing dementia every three minutes in the UK, we need the government to deliver a long-term funding plan urgently, before the whole system buckles under the strain.’

It is calling for investment in quality, specialist dementia support through a dedicated fund.

Chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, Councillor Ian Hudspeth, said: ‘Everyone’s needs are unique. Therefore, timely reviews of people’s needs and updated care plans are a key part of ensuring that what they want for their lives is achieved.

‘But this is becoming increasingly difficult to do given the scale of the pressures facing the social care system and the strain on the workforce.

‘Adult social care faces a £3.6bn funding gap by 2025. Therefore the upcoming Spending Review and much-delayed government green paper needs to provide the long-term sustainable funding solution which adult social care, including those with dementia, urgently needs.’