Landmark ward revamp aids dementia patients

Bradford Royal Infirmary improves the hospital environment for dementia sufferers

Wards 23 and 29 have been revamped in a bid to make them more appropriate for hospital patients with dementia

Bradford Royal Infirmary (BRI) has improved the hospital environment for acute elderly care patients suffering from dementia as part of the largest refurbishment project of its kind in the UK.

The initiative to redevelop Wards 23 and 29 cost more than £450,000, including a £50,000 grant from The King’s Fund’s Enhancing the Healing Environment (EHE) programme and £50,000 from the Department of Health.

The brief for the six-month refurbishment was to look at how design and artwork could influence patient behaviour and improve the environment for both staff and patients.

This has been achieved by providing special memory boxes by each patient’s bed, into which they place a personal object they can easily recognise and remember, along with a descriptive caption accompanying each object. It helps patients find their way back to their beds, also doubling up as an aid by helping them recall and reminisce about their past.

In addition, oversized Kodak-style slide frames, backlit with LED lighting, feature interchangeable images provided by The Yorkshire Film Archive, based at York University. They include bygone scenes of Bradford and Yorkshire folk, such as families at the seaside, to help foster happy memories. These are supplemented with wall-mounted Yorkshire image boards, also interchangeable and purpose designed to enhance local recognition and awareness. The images came from entrants in a Yorkshire-themed photographic competition run by Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Commenting on the initiative, head of nursing and project lead, Dawn Parkes, said: “This is a ground-breaking initiative for the trust and it is already making a huge difference by quickly and clearly illustrating how relatively small changes to the hospital environment can reduce anxiety, accidents and incidents of challenging behaviour.

“Immediate improvements we have already seen include a reduced rate of falls, less agitation among patients and reduced complaints from relatives. In the past, our patients used to wander up and down the wards aimlessly. Now, they will sit more attentively on the special seats we have provided adjacent to the light boxes and image boards.

“They are much more orientated and there is increased interaction with hospital staff, who, in turn, are now better able to engage patients in meaningful conversations – for example, about the contents of their memory boxes and the pictures on display.

“It provides patients with something to talk about and there is also the added advantage of increased satisfaction among hospital staff, as they see the many beneficial effects the programme is having on their patients.”

Two local companies, Bradford-based New Vision Signs and Graphics and PEC Building and Shopfitting, were key players in the project. New Vision provided the memory boxes, slide frames and image boards, while PEC Building & Shopfitting was the main contractor for the refurbishment work.

PEC’s managing director, Balbir Panesar, is a former president of Bradford Chamber of Commerce and proceeds from his 2011 annual charity dinner will help fund further improvements for the dementia care environments at BRI.

Andy Edwards Design led on project design, also involving Bradford-born photographer Ian Beesley, who took pictures of patients and staff for use in the displays.

Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is now working closely with Bradford Institute of Healthcare Research, which is undertaking an evaluation of the programme and its impact. The trust is also assessing where all BRI wards currently stand in terms of the environment, an initiative that is being trialled on behalf of The King’s Fund programme, while the Department of Health has chosen Bradford for an enhanced evaluation study because of the size of the project.

Parkes said: “There are still lots of things we can and will do, though we remain keenly aware that the size of the task ahead is huge, as official figures show that in acute elderly care one in four patients suffer from dementia.

“However, It is all very positive and, vitally, we have the full support and commitment of our executive team. We are confident that our pioneering work in this specialist field can be held up as a shining example of best practice worthy of adoption by other NHS trusts across the country.”

Stephen Duff, managing director of New Vision Signs, said: “This far-reaching project is a flagship example of effective partnership working between the public and private sectors in Bradford, one that is clearly making a real difference to patients from across the region.

“We worked hand-in-hand with all partners on the design and manufacture of the visual aids used in the BRI project. Some of the products were completely new to us and this in itself made the job both challenging and motivating.

“This was also the first time we have worked in the mainstream NHS and we hope to cement and develop our growing presence in the UK healthcare sector.”

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