New Dementia Intensive Support Teams
A dedicated team is being drafted into two of Norfolk's hospitals to help patients with dementia get home sooner and safely.
The Dementia Intensive Support Team (DIST) will consist of specially trained nurses employed by Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (NWMHFT).
Working in the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn, they will identify patients whose dementia is the underlying cause of admission, or causing their stay in hospital to be unnecessarily extended.
They will work with hospital staff, the patients and their carers to help them overcome the crisis in their condition so they can return home.
Dr Chris Francis, Norwich GP and member of NHS Norfolk's Clinical Cabinet said: “It is quite proper and appropriate that some patients who also have dementia will need hospital care.
“But we also know that there are some for whom dementia caused the crisis in their health. So there are benefits of this new service for patients in that they can go home sooner, where they will feel safer and happier, and benefits to the NHS as a whole because it is a better use of our resources.”
The DIST will operate its “in-reach” service to the two hospitals seven days a week, starting in the autumn. It has been funded by NHS Norfolk at a cost of £450,000 and planned by them in partnership with the Trusts.
Gary Hazeldon, Partnership and Integration Manager at NWMHFT, said: “This initiative is in line with national and local dementia strategies. The choices offered to people diagnosed with dementia and their carers by the timely, proactive response of the Intensive Support Team will enable a quicker return home, and support hospital staff and carers.
“Our staff will place great emphasis on building relationships, trust and providing practical solutions with a can do and caring attitude. Their skills and expertise in dementia care will help to reduce distress, improve wellbeing and manage many aspects of daily life for people with dementia and their carers.”
From a hospital's perspective, offering specialist help to patients with dementia is vital. A snapshot check carried out at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in November 2010 showed that 28.5 per cent of all adult patients had a degree of dementia. At the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn, it was xxx.
Both hospitals have put in place a wide range of measures to offer specialist help to patients with dementia.
The “in-reach” DIST is being established after the successful trial of a community Dementia Intensive Support Team which has been operating in the north and south of Norfolk.
Also provided by the Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, the community DIST staff go to the aid of dementia patients in their homes or nursing homes to help stave off a sudden crisis.
Many of these might previously have needed admission to the NWMHFTs Blickling Ward at the Julian Hospital in Norwich for in-patient support. But since its introduction in June 2010, the community DIST staff has seen more than 240 people and 86% have been able to remain at home. Admissions to Blickling Ward have been reduced by more than 25%.
The team help people accept home care packages, can help alleviate stress experienced by carers, and provide education about dementia. They are also able to monitor medication and give reminders as necessary, as well as assessing the self-care of individuals and their safety.
Senior Charge Nurse Julie Bennett said: “Our Dementia Intensive Support Team offers practical problem solving for patients living at home or in a residential home. Sometimes they need more time spent with them if a difficulty arises, care staff and relatives need help to understand what is going on for that person and how best to help, or there may be an underlying physical cause to changes in behaviour that the team can help identify.
“We try to enable them to live well for longer where they choose to be.”