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Invest in senior nurses to improve dementia care, says RCN

A project providing extra support to senior clinical nurse leads responsible for hospital patients with dementia brought about rapid improvements in care, an evaluation has found.

The year-long scheme was devised and funded by the Royal College of Nursing Foundation. It saw nurse leads at nine hospital trusts embark on a development programme to help champion improvements in dementia care.

The extra support given to clinical nurse leads had been a “catalyst” for achieving positive outcomes for patients and their families, according to an independent evaluation of the project by the Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester.

“The structured development programme was successful in helping clinical leads achieve some very positive outcomes for patients in acute hospital settings over a relatively short period of time,” the evaluation report said.

“Without dedicated time and resources to network, share learning and evaluate practice, high quality care for dementia will be difficult to deliver”

Peter Carter

Initiatives developed during the project included efforts to listen to and respond to the needs of carers, and more spacious emergency department bays designed with dementia patients in mind – for example, featuring pictures and large clocks.

One hospital created an activity room in two elderly care wards, where patients could paint, play dominoes and bird watch. It resulted in increased wellbeing scores.

Over the course of the programme, all trusts saw a significant improvement in scores for each of the RCN’s five core principles of good dementia care, with an average increase of 45%.

The most improved area was partnership working with patients, where there was a 53% increase in scores. There was also a 51% increase in scores for person-centred care plans and 50% increase in scores for “dementia-friendly” environments.

Researchers found efforts to improve care were most successful when project teams had support from senior managers at the trust, which filtered through to dementia champions working directly with patients in clinical settings.

RCN general secretary and chief executive Peter Carter said investment in similar projects was vital, with more than 900,000 people with dementia attending hospitals each year.

“Without dedicated time and resources to network, share learning and evaluate practice, high quality care for dementia will be difficult to deliver across the NHS,” he said.

The nine trusts and their hospital sites selected to take part in the programme were:

  • Basildon & Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Trust (Basildon Hospital)
  • Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (Addenbrookes Hospital)
  • Nottingham University Hospital Trust (City Campus)
  • Royal Devon & Exeter Foundation Trust (Wonford Hospital)
  • Kings Lynn NHS Foundation Trust (The Queen Elizabeth Hospital)
  • The Shrewsbury & Telford Hospitals NHS Trust (Princess Royal Hospital and Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital)
  • Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust
  • Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust (Manor Hospital)
  • Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (Ysbyty Glan Clwyd)

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