Jeremy Hunt launches national dementia scheme at St Thomas' Hospital


Posted on Friday 26 July 2013
Jeremy Hunt

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has launched a national scheme to improve the care of patients with dementia. The Older Person's Unit at St Thomas' has been hailed as an example for other trusts to follow.

Over a hundred hospitals and care homes across England have been awarded a share of a £50million fund to create pioneering care environments designed with the needs of people with dementia in mind.

Jeremy Hunt today (25 July) announced details of the 116 successful projects as part of a visit to the award winning older person’s unit at St Thomas'.

Guy's and St Thomas' was selected to receive £955,490 to fund the pilot project ‘Designing the Dementia Journey – a holistic approach to the environment for people with dementia’.

The Older Person’s Unit features a specially designed ward environment, with colour-coded bays and symbols to help patients remember their way back to their bed. Patients with dementia are given blue wristbands so staff can easily identify them, and are served food on red meal trays so that staff know these patients need extra help with eating and drinking. The funding will enable these successful initiatives to be rolled out to other high priority wards across the Trust.

Jeremy Hunt spoke of the importance of placing the needs of dementia patients first when designing new care environments.

Speaking today, the Health Secretary said: “There is little doubt that our home and work environment has an important impact upon our day to day lives – and our care environment is no exception.

“We can encounter any number of places and spaces in one day, and yet for someone with advanced dementia even walking from one room to another can be difficult. This pilot scheme will form an important first step towards driving forward better care environments for people with dementia.”

Funding was awarded to projects that demonstrate how practical changes to the environment within which people with dementia are treated in will make a tangible improvement to their condition.

The projects will form part of the first national pilot to showcase the best examples of dementia friendly environments across England, to build evidence around the type of physical changes that have the most benefit for dementia patients.

Cluttered ward layouts and poor signage in hospitals and care homes were cited as the top reasons for causing confusion and distress in people with dementia in research conducted by The King’s Fund.

Replacing reflective sanitaryware and surfaces, and installing clearer signage using distinctive colours and pictures, has been shown to help dementia patients manage their condition better by helping to reduce confusion and agitation.

Jeremy Hughes, Alzheimer's Society Chief Executive said: “The effect an unfamiliar hospital or care home environment has on the wellbeing of a person with dementia is often underestimated. Changes to a person’s surroundings can leave people with dementia feeling confused, anxious or agitated and can drastically affect their quality of life. 

“Moving into a care home or spending time in hospital can be a difficult transition, and often the buildings and grounds are not layed out in a way that supports staff to deliver good quality care. Investment in pioneering projects that will create dementia-friendly environments within these care settings will play a vital part in helping to improve the care hospitals or care homes are able to provide.”

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