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Nurse-led programme slashes dementia patient hospital stays

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Dementia patients are spending fewer days at a London hospital after a nurse-led programme introduced brightly-coloured drinking glasses onto wards.

The colourful innovations – which also include large red and yellow clocks that can be easily seen from beds and the addition of pictures onto signs – have been introduced at the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust as part of a strategy to improve the hospital experience for patients with dementia.

It has resulted in the number of days each patient with dementia spends on its wards being cut by an average of 2.5 since the programme began in April last year. The proportion of patients with dementia who stay in hospital for more than 30 days has also fallen, from 19.7% to 14.2%.

The trust’s lead nurse for dementia care, Jo James, who oversees the programme, said the novel-sounding changes all had practical value. For example, green glasses are more visible to patients with dementia than clear ones, helping them to avoid dehydration.

“Our aim was to improve our quality of care, rather than cut length of stay, but we’re very pleased that quality work has made a difference in financial terms,” she told Nursing Times.

The changes have so far been introduced on two elderly care wards, and Ms James said she hoped that three more wards will soon follow suit. She is now working with colleagues at other north and central London trusts to create a network for high-quality dementia care.

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