Downe Dementia Team Wins Dementia Friendly Award


The Downe Hospital Dementia Team have been named Health and Social Care Organisation of the Year at the Dementia Friendly Awards run by the Alzheimer’s Society honouring organisations and individuals who improve their community for people with dementia.

Paula Thompson, team leader, said the multidisciplinary team on the Downe Dementia Ward recognised the need for patients being assessed for dementia to be treated as holistically as possible. Downe Dementia Ward is a twenty bed assessment and treatment unit. With hospital stays of sometimes up to six months, it is common for elderly patients with dementia to develop physical health problems, but being transferred to a physical ward for treatment, where nursing staff are not experts in dementia, could be disorienting and frightening.

“We wanted to ensure that patients admitted to the ward and their relatives underwent a positive experience during the time spent there,” Paula said. “A plan was put in place to promote all aspects of patient centred care to avoid patients being transferred to a medical ward if they became acutely unwell or required palliative care input, she said.

Staff recruitment criteria were amended, additional medical resources were implemented to support service improvement and partnership working was introduced. Mental health nurses were given refresher training in physical health care, and medical nurses were trained in dementia care.

Aside from the training costs, there was no need for extra budget. "It wasn't about more money, it was about thinking about the patients," Paula said. "It was asking families what they wanted and what would help them, so now they can sleep over on the ward and there are tea and coffee and biscuits for them to help themselves, and that makes their lives easier and helps us as well as being good for the person with dementia," she said.

The ward now benefits from a unique combination of skills by confident nurses who have adapted their skills to respond to the needs of patients. “It makes me so proud when I see a mental health nurse confidently taking blood, or a nurse whose training is in physical health care completely confident in caring for a person with dementia,” Paula said.

“This is evidenced based practice at its best and it is receiving considerable interest in other trusts and very positive feedback from patients and their families. Relatives know that their loved ones will remain within the ward when they become physically unwell; within a familiar supportive environment and with staff they know and trust,” she said.

Challenging traditional ways of working and promoting person centred practice has resulted in increased staff morale and real engagement with our patients and families delivered within a warm friendly environment adapted specifically to respond to individual needs, she said.

Paula said she would like to see this model of care extended. "I know people are looking at it, and it doesn't cost any more - it's just a different way of working," she said.

Bernadine McCrory, Alzheimer’s Society Northern Ireland Director, said: “I want to congratulate Downe Dementia Team for winning the Dementia Friendly Organisation of the Year Award in the Health and Social Care category. The contribution that they are making helps to make all our communities more supportive and inclusive for the 20,000 people in Northern Ireland living with dementia, and for their families.

“The standard of entries for the awards this year has been excellent, and we’ve seen a real array of different ways that people make a difference in their community. Anyone can become a Dementia Friend, which is the first step in knowing more about dementia and how to help a person with dementia. Our winners all took this first step and went on from there, whether it’s school children, librarians, shop staff, care workers or bankers, they are all shaping a better future for people with dementia.”

These are the second annual awards, celebrating people and organisations that have made an outstanding contribution towards improving the life and experiences of people with dementia and categories range from individuals to whole communities.

Dementia Friendly Communities support and empower people with dementia to maintain their independence for as long as possible through inclusion, awareness and understanding.

Pictured L/R:  Paula Thompson (Ward Manager), Bernadine McCrory (Alzheimer's Society Director), Siobhan McKeown (Staff Nurse) & Oliver Cochrane (Health Care Support Worker)