Politicians commit to John’s Campaign to allow people 24-hour hospital access to vulnerable patients with dementia, following deluge of support
A campaign to allow friends and family open access to people with dementia while they are in hospital has seen a significant victory this weekend with backing from senior politicians. The Observer-backed campaign has won the support of health minister Norman Lamb, who has promised to write to all NHS trusts promoting the idea, while the shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, has committed to strengthening the NHS constitution on the issue and including it in Labour’s election manifesto.
“I could have wept with gratitude and relief,” said novelist Nicci Gerrard, whose experiences with her father’s hospital care led her to launch John’s Campaign. It calls for the families and carers of people with dementia to be allowed to remain with them in hospital for as many hours of the day and night as necessary. The campaign has been deluged with support, not only from families but from doctors, nurses and charities working with people with dementia. Several NHS trusts have agreed to start implementing changes within their own hospitals and letting staff know what is expected of them.
Gerrard said cross-party support showed it was not a political issue but one of common sense and compassion. It is, she writes in the Observer today, “a rare instance where the costs in both financial and human terms are none and the benefits enormous”.
More than a quarter of hospital beds in the UK are now occupied by people with dementia. A third will never return to their own homes and just under half will leave hospital in a worse condition than when they entered. Gerrard’s father, Dr John Gerrard, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in his 70s, deteriorated significantly during his hospital stay last year, something his family felt could have been avoided had they been allowed to spend more time supporting him while he was there.
The campaigners, backed by Labour MP Valerie Vaz among others, believe the current NHS advice to parents with children in hospital that they should stay with their child as much as possible should also apply to people with dementia, who are often vulnerable and very easily distressed.
On Wednesday, which is NHS Change Day – a chance for positive changes at grassroots level to be highlighted more widely – NHS England is organising what it is calling a “Thunderclap” on behalf of John’s Campaign, across thousands of social media accounts, including Twitter and Facebook, at 11am.