Huge hospital bill for elderly

CASH-strapped Ipswich hospital is being forced to spend up to £10,000 a day on caring for elderly people with dementia, it can be revealed today.

CASH-strapped Ipswich Hospital is being forced to spend up to £10,000 a day on caring for elderly people with dementia, it can be revealed today.

Due to a shortage of care home spaces in the county, the NHS is forking out £500 a day on up to 20 people who need specialist care outside of the hospital wards.

In just one month the figure having to be spent on dementia patients is as much as £300,000.

Dr Tim Lockington, clinical director for elderly services at Ipswich Hospital, said the lack of specialist care homes means patients with conditions such as dementia have to stay in hospital much longer than they should.

Suffolk County Council, which has a legal duty to house those older residents who need specialist care, has today said they are aware of the issue and working to solve the problem.

Mr Lockington said: “The health system in Suffolk has been stretched for some time and the problem will get worse as the population of older people grows.

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“There is no strategy that reflects the changing needs of the very elderly in Suffolk.

“It has been estimated it costs £500 a day to have a person in hospital and it is not unknown to have 20 people who should be discharged in our care. In the last few years I have had patients on the wards for as long as nine months.”

Dr Lockington said care for older people, particularly with dementia, is under resourced in the county.

He said 80 per cent of care homes cater for older people with physical frailty leaving just 20pc of homes to house dementia patients.

He said: “This is why these people have to stay in hospital. The whole system needs to be redressed. This is a problem elsewhere but in Suffolk it is particularly noticeable. It is reaching a critical stage and has been building up for the last 12 years. We need a clear strategy.”

Dr Lockington said it is a common scenario for an older person with mild dementia to have a fall and be admitted to hospital.

He said: “Families often worry about their older relatives and when they are admitted to hospital realise they cannot go back to their own homes.

“Dementia is a condition that is often hushed up and it is very difficult for families to deal with. There is an ostrich effect that means it is not discussed.

“We ought to 'come out' about dementia but we are not there yet.”

Is dementia buried under the carpet? Has your family been affected by this issue? What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to

CAMPAIGNERS today welcomed The Evening Star's research highlighting the lack of specialist care homes for dementia patients.

Daphne Savage, chief executive of Age Concern Suffolk said the issue is now a “pressing and urgent” problem.

She said: “Sadly this is not a new problem. We have known for a number of years that the population is ageing and dementia is on the increase.

“It is very sad that there hasn't been enough planning to alleviate these concerns.”

Mrs Savage said Ipswich Hospital is not the right place for people with conditions like dementia.

She said: “If a person is already confused then the ward on a hospital is not the best place. A care home is the best place for someone to recover which is homely and where they can receive the care they need. The problem in and around Ipswich is there are just not enough care homes that can take dementia patients.

“I am glad Dr Lockington and The Evening Star have highlighted this issue it is now pressing and urgent and there is a desperate need for the right facilities.”

FOR too long the older generation has been overlooked as people suffer care homes closing, dwindling pensions, hospital wards closing, and not enough carers in the community.

Our new Golden Years series aims to make sure that the older years really are Golden Years.

We will:

Listen to our older generation.

Fight for dignity in old age.

Make sure older people get the voice they need to raise the topics that matter to them.

Crusade on issues affecting pensioners.

Inform older people about the help and assistance available for them.

Dig out those inspirational stories that show old age need not be the barrier to a fulfilled and active life.

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If you have a story for Golden Years, call James Marston on 01473 324731, e-mail or write to him at The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

CIVIC leaders today admitted there is a “long recognised” need to increase capacity in care homes in the county.

In a statement from Suffolk County Council councillor Graham Newman said that in the last two years the council has led the creation of an additional 45 extra care places in very sheltered housing schemes, taking the total to nearly 800 people in Suffolk supported in this way.

Mr Newman, who has responsibility for adult and community services, said: “Of course there are always increasing demands on the hospital as more older people need medical care. Suffolk County Council, the hospital and the NHS Primary Care Trust (PCT) are working very closely together to make sure that older people with increasingly complex needs can come out of hospital when they should.”

He added that ten extra nursing beds have now been bought in care homes in Ipswich.

Mr Newman said: “Together we have invested millions of pounds in the Ipswich area to make sure that we have enough services to cope.

“Since September 2005 the integrated discharge team has combined social workers and hospital staff for both immediate discharges and longer-term strategic planning.

“For example we have bought 45 beds for older people with special needs such as dementia in a local nursing home.

“These beds will be operational from early July. We are also working together in joint nursing teams with the Primary Care Trust to care for more people in their own homes, to prevent people having to be admitted to hospital.

“We have all long recognised that we need to increase capacity in care homes in Suffolk for older people with dementia, and we are working with the Suffolk Association of Independent Care Providers to look at how best we do that more quickly.”

Tracy Dowling, director of service development at Ipswich Hospital added: “Our approach is very much to work with our partners at the Primary Care Trust and the GPs, and Suffolk County Council's social care staff.

“Delays in people being discharged are a concern, but we know the only way to solve these problems is to work together, with the closest possible understanding and joint commitment.”