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Ward ‘tea parties’ helping hydrate dementia patients


Simple changes led by nurses on a hospital ward for older people have been praised for reducing the need for security and boosting staff morale as well as improving hydration and nutrition levels.

The model of care for patients with dementia on a ward at Royal Lancaster Infirmary – run by University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust – is now being shared nationally as an example of good practice across the NHS.

“We have seen a clear reduction in harms associated with poor nutritional and fluid intake”

Nicole Dixon

Nurses and healthcare assistants on Ward 20, led by ward manager Nicole Dixon, developed a range of diversional therapies, which she said had resulted in “happier and healthier patients”.

What started out as a small project to try to improve diet and fluid intake has also had unexpected benefits. It has also helped improve staff morale and has seen a 99% reduction in the amount the hospital spends on security staff.

Innovations have included making food and drink available 24 hours a day and holding tea parties with the help of relatives.

Ms Dixon, said: “We looked at the different ways we could do more for our patients, within the limited resources that we have available.

“Previously, snacks and drinks were given out on the ward at set times and we felt as a team, that patients weren’t really getting a choice as to when and how they accessed snacks or drinks outside of structured mealtimes and drink rounds.

“Now snacks such as fruit, biscuits and cakes, tea and soft drinks are available 24 hours a day in the main ward area for patients to help themselves to and fresh fruit is now delivered to the ward every other day,” she said.

“This is nursing at its absolute best”

Sue Smith

Ms Dixon added that “small things” like serving tea out of bone china instead of beakers with straws was also “making a huge difference on the ward”.

She noted that the trust’s protected mealtime policy, which was already in place, had been adapted to allow “tea parties” to be held on the ward with the help of relatives and carers.

Since starting the tea parties, nurses have already seen some impressive results, she said.

“We have seen a clear reduction in harms associated with poor nutritional and fluid intake on the ward such as falls,” she said. “We are seeing happier, less-agitated patients, which has also resulted in a reduction in our use of security guards.

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust

Ward ‘tea parties’ helping hydrate dementia patients

Nicole Nixon

“Over a one-year period, we have seen spend on security reduce from £40,000 to only £250, which is an incredible reduction and shows us how much happier our patients are,” she said.

She added: “We have received no formal complaints in over a year and our Friends & Family feedback has greatly increased. We now score 4.95 out of a maximum score of a possible 5.0.”

“Staff morale has also improved and my team work much better together,” she said. “Staff sickness on the ward has reduced from 10% to 3%”.

Sue Smith, the trust’s executive chief nurse, said: “This is nursing at its absolute best.

“Nicole and all the team on ward 20 should be applauded for introducing a new model of care which has not only resulted in happier, less agitated and distressed patients and families; but has also increased job satisfaction amongst staff and has significantly reduced expenditure on security staff.”


Readers' comments (6)

  • Brilliant ideas !

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  • Great results from such a simple idea, person centred care, it's what its all about.

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  • What a great woman Nicolle is. Nursing homes should sit up and take notice of this.

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  • Super and great for the social side as well as the physiological. you don't look as you need any further training. It all looks very Mary Berry!

    However, I just want to point out other initiatives in a couple of private European clinics where they were looking for innovative and competitive ideas to attract patients. One was to provide a silver afternoon tea trolley service with beverages and dainty sandwiches and cakes, as in some hotels, which seems similar to your own idea, and the other was to send staff on an airline cabin crew course to learn all about good customer service!

    I must say, last time I flew easyjet I was highly impressed with the friendless of their staff, their willingness and their excellent seamless service and teamwork on a flight of just over an hour, which I found an excellent example for any team, and wrote to the company afterwards and told them of my very positive experience.

    I would like to drop by for tea with you and your patients. Those cakes and pretty china look very tempting.

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  • It is lovely to see something positive coming out of the NHS rather than the negatives that are always highlighted. Nicole, Ward 20 has always been a wonderful little ward run by fantastic ward managers, and a wonderful team too. It was always a smiley, happy ward, and Nicole, a lovely approachable ward manager. I wish you the best of luck in future ideas, and most of all flying the flag for MBHT makes me proud to have worked there :)

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  • FAB-U-LOUS Darling

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