National campaign aims to fix shortfalls in cognitive impairment care

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The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care has vowed to “provide better outcomes” and “reduce the risk of harm” to hospital patients suffering from cognitive impairment.

Under a new national campaign launched at the end of last month, the Commission said it would improve knowledge and care practices to provide patients with a higher level of care.

The Caring for Cognitive Impairment campaign will focus heavily on patients with dementia and delirium, with the Commission citing those conditions as being most commonly associated with cognitive impairment.

20 per cent of hospital patients in Australia aged over 70 have dementia, while 10 per cent of patients in the same age group suffer delirium after being admitted to hospital.

The Commission said that patients with those conditions are at a much greater risk of “preventable complications” such as falls, pressure injuries, longer stays in hospital and even death.

The chair of the Commission’s Cognitive Impairment Advisory Group, Professor Sue Kurrle, said the campaign was a step forward in improving the level of care for patients.

“This campaign will lead to safety and quality improvements in caring for hospital patients with cognitive impairment across our health system,” Professor Kurrle said.

“It will inform health professionals about what they can do to help achieve this and support them in playing a committed role.

“If cognitive impairment is identified and the right steps are taken early, we can minimise harm which means health professionals, consumers and health services can all play a vital role.”

A key component of the campaign is highlighting that harm can be minimised if cognitive impairment is identified early and steps are taken to reduce the associated risks.

The chair of the Australian Private Hospitals Association’s (APHA) Safety and Quality Taskforce, Christine Gee, said she hoped the call to action was heard by all Australian hospitals.

“By improving the knowledge and care practices across all Australian hospitals, patients with cognitive impairment will have better outcomes and the risk of harm will be significantly reduced,” Ms Gee said.

“The campaign provides a much-needed national focus and call to action for all Australian hospitals to improve the recognition and diagnosis of cognitive impairment.”

The campaign was developed over a number of months, with the Commission accepting input from various stakeholders including APHA’s Safety and Quality Taskforce.

The Taskforce has a long-running relationship with the Commission and is represented on its Cognitive Impairment Advisory Group by Susan McLean, the Epworth HealthCare director of clinical services for mental health.

Ms Gee said the members of the Taskforce recognised the “importance and the significance of this work to the private hospital sector”.

“[The campaign] will have a positive impact on the sector’s efforts to improve the care provided to the many patients who are admitted that have cognitive impairments,” she said.

The Commission hopes the campaign will assist hospitals prepare for the revised NSWHS Standards in 2017.

The Commission has developed three resources to guide health service managers, clinicians and consumers in improving care of people with cognitive impairment. Click here to access them.

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