Up to 3% of beds are occupied by those with dementia and hospital care would have little effect.While I can't claim extensive experience in the area, it entirely bears out what I have seen of a system that is far from ideal.
In the first place, the pressures on the system and the fact that some of the agencies concerned function on a geological timescale mean that it can take years to arrange help for someone with dementia, assuming you have actually managed to get a diagnosis.
As a result, the majority of admissions to dementia wards, at least according to nurses I have spoken to, are via A&E, after a fall or being found wandering outside in cold weather. Once they have been restored to physical health, the fun begins.
For those patients who need secure residential care, a place must be found in a suitable nursing home. Thus it was that I had the dubious pleasure of meeting a woman whose job was to match patients with care home places.
It began in a less than auspicious fashion. With a two-hour drive home ahead of me, I was looking forward to getting things sorted quickly; I didn't know then that she and her sort run on what I have since come to think of as 'public sector time'.
More than half an hour after the appointment was due, she finally hove into view at reception, brushing chocolate crumbs from her face. I was ushered into her office, where she resumed her half-drunk cup of coffee and unhurriedly produced a stack of forms.
Over the next quarter of an hour or so, I appear to have got the better part of the deal; while she managed to fill in barely three pages - mostly tick boxes - of my relative's details, I acquired a positive cornucopia of information on the small doings of her four-year-old daughter thanks to her constant chatter on the subject.
At 3 o'clock precisely, she finished her (third) biscuit, drained her cup and stacked the forms on the desk, announcing she had to collect her child from school.
"But what about a care home place?" This was, after all, the whole reason I was there.
She handed me a brochure from the desk drawer: "There's a list of homes in here," she said, "Just phone me when you've made up your mind which one". And with that, she was gone.
Fortunately the story ended well, but she left her mark on the case; one of those boxes she ticked so blithely - I think she was answering her phone at the time - turned out to have been the opposite of what I had told her; had we not been able to find interim funding, the care home place I arranged would have been lost as a result.
It's hardly surprising, therefore, that the dementia ward, according to the nurse I spoke to, was full of patients who should have left hospital long before.
I wish I could say my experience was unique; sadly that 3% suggests otherwise.