Great Idea UK: Hospital Pioneers ‘Dementia-friendly’ Innovations

A number of new innovations introduced by staff at Southampton General Hospital are revolutionising the way patients with dementia are treated.

The team of nurses and doctors have created a 28-bed “dementia-friendly”, ward which uses colours and images to create the most suitable environment for patients.

With the help of advisers including community nurses and national charity Dementia UK, the team came up with a range of ideas to provide the most suitable environment for patients, relatives and carers.

Doors in the ward have been painted in bright colours and bed numbers have been replaced with images such as umbrellas, lighthouses and to help patients remember which bay they are staying in.

The nurses’ station has also been renamed “reception” and lowered to improve accessibility and make patients feel more comfortable when approaching it.

Cleaning stores and staff offices now blend in with surrounding walls, while paperwork is put away out of sight to create a clutter-free area. Visiting time restrictions have also been lifted, giving 24-hour access for carers and relatives.

In addition, they have also introduced the UK’s first hospital-based Admiral specialist nurse. The post’s first incumbent is Jeni Bell, a former clinical lead Admiral nurse in the community.

She will shadow clinical staff and oversee a training and development programme, which will look at understanding patients’ body language and how to handle those who do not interact verbally.

“We know dementia patients can be extremely confused in a hospital environment, particularly when they require medical treatment, and relatives are often concerned their dementia needs are neglected in the absence of carers or family,” said matron Jill Young, who led the work with her team in the hospital’s medicine for older people unit.

“That’s why we embarked on this project – it gives us a chance to show we are determined not just to improve care for these patients, but to give their families and friends the confidence that we understand the condition and can offer the right support.”

Barbara Stephens, chief executive of Dementia UK, added: “This project, particularly the introduction of the first Admiral nurse specialist to be based in a large acute hospital, is a breakthrough moment in the care of dementia patients in hospital and a model of what we want – and need – to see across the country.”

Citation