NHS hospitals are failing to spot dementia in patients

By Blackwater Law

NHS hospitals are failing to spot dementia in patients, meaning they are not receiving the specialist support that they may need and raising concerns over the potential that patients may pursue a misdiagnosis claim.

The study which was published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia followed 21,300 people, of whom 8,246 had previously been diagnosed with dementia in a separate setting. In 2016 only 61.5 percent of patients with dementia were appropriately diagnosed, ensuring that they received the level of care that they required. However, this shows an improvement when compared to 2008 whereby only 48.7 percent were given the correct diagnosis.

More than a third of dementia patients who were suffering with the condition were not correctly identified by NHS hospitals when they were admitted, often leaving them without the support or additional care that they may need. In addition, the study found that in particular those patients suffering from dementia from an ethnic minority group were more likely to be misdiagnosed with 28 percent of cases going missed, compared to 20 percent from those a white background.

It is thought that patients are not always getting the correct diagnosis due to a low awareness of the signs and symptoms of dementia amongst patients and their respective families as well as clinicians often associating the symptoms that are being presented with a range of other conditions giving rise to a potential medical negligence claim.

A number of charities have commented that the symptoms of dementia can make hospitals an incredibly terrifying place and that a correct diagnosis it important to ensure that steps are taken to minimise this. As a result, those suffering from dementia may pursue a delayed diagnosis claim should their condition not be correctly identified and suffering has occurred as a result.

Dr Matthew Norton, director of policy and impact at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“This insightful study suggests that while hospital staff are aware of dementia generally, more work needs to be done to diagnose dementia in the earlier stages and avoid misdiagnosis. Many people with dementia today, particularly in BAME communities, are still not formally diagnosed, which presents challenges for delivering high-quality healthcare.”

It is thought that there are 850,000 people suffering with dementia in the UK and these account for one in four beds occupied in the NHS showing the scale of the problem. Furthermore, it is thought that by 2021 more than one million people in the UK will be suffering with dementia to some extent and therefore active steps need to be taken to ensure the swift diagnosis of the condition.  A failure to take active steps to correctly diagnose dementia at an early stage leaves hospitals vulnerable to patients and their families pursuing a hospital negligence claim.

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