Delivering for dementia patients at Fairfield General

6 September 2023

Wander into Ward 8 on the first floor of Fairfield General and at first glance it’s little different to any other busy ward at a district hospital. But walk ahead, take a turn or two and the space that opens up is more like that of a roomy lounge.  

Tables are dotted around with one taken up by a female patient cosily seated alongside volunteer Ismaa who paints polish on her nails. Not far away, Grace, another of the hospital’s volunteers gently encourages an elderly gentleman to join her in completing a colourful jigsaw.

A corner contains more relaxing easy-type chairs, while around the walls are books, puzzles, a mini red postbox, a television and even a little envelope for friends and family to pop in messages to their loved ones. A piano, sometimes played by Grace, has a home here. There’s a Rempod too – a small area divided off from the rest where patients can be accompanied for moments of reminiscing.

Ismaa treats a patient to nail polish

That’s because the team has turned part of this ward into a dementia-friendly place, with a calmer environment and specialist staff.  

Around six weeks’ in, this test-of-change unit for the ward’s over-65 dementia patients, is a way to try and create – as much as possible – a warmer and more stimulating home from home.

“It's an exciting challenge for all the staff on ward 8 and an opportunity to deliver outstanding care for patients with dementia,” ward manager Sharon Wilson says. “A special thank you to our Fairfield volunteers – Caroline Short and her team have been amazing and continue offering support. We’ve been overwhelmed by support from the whole site, from estates to management, who have offered us equipment and gone above and beyond to help us get this programme off the ground, to continue and improve.  

Part of the Discharge Integration Frontrunner programme, this NHS England-funded initiative focuses on people with dementia and how emergency care at hospital, or at home, could be improved – in a way that enables older people quicker returns home from hospital after urgent and emergency care.

But it’s also about keeping patients active in hospital so they can return home as fit and healthy as possible to help avoid muscle-loss or mental health problems.

The Bury project is partly focusing on people with dementia because data shows many never return home after a stay in hospital, but instead go to a care facility.

Grace sits at a table facing the camera, with jigsaw pieces in front of her and part of the back of a ma;le's patient's head in the foreground
Grace engages a patient in a jigsaw puzzle

Sharon adds: “Importantly, fantastic feedback from the families of our patients and the Quality Improvement team’s involvement has been invaluable in assisting us to collect the data to ensure we’re meeting our objectives – reduced lengths of stay, preventing multiple patient moves and providing an improved patient experience.”

Now it’s lunchtime and suddenly the room’s filled with more patients, staff and volunteers. There’s a buzz. A calm one but it’s easy to see how this new environment creates a positive and stimulating impact on and for, patients and their families.

Find out more about the Discharge Integration Frontrunner Programme :: Northern Care Alliance.

Group of 10 colleagues stand against a wall facing the camera and smiling
Some of the Ward 8 dementia unit team 


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