Specialist dementia and delirium teams come together across Somerset
Over the last eight years, a team of specialist dementia and delirium professionals has been supporting patients on the inpatient wards at Yeovil Hospital.
And last year, a similar service was set up at Somerset FT for the wards at Musgrove Park Hospital and our community hospital inpatient units.
The teams provide that extra support to patients who have a cognitive impairment, which is likely to mean they are living with a dementia or experiencing a delirium. Often these patients have both, which can lead them to be disorientated, distressed and uncertain of what is happening.
With our two trusts coming together to form the new Somerset FT, the merger of our dementia and delirium teams is a good example of how two teams have come together to provide resilience so that we’re able to provide better care, while ensuring that patients across the whole of the county get the same level of care, wherever they live.
Kirsty Withers, a specialist matron and head of dementia care services at Yeovil District Hospital, explains: “We started to provide specialist dementia support to patients at Yeovil Hospital back in 2015 with a single nurse consultant and clinical nurse specialist making up the team.
“We’ve learned a lot over this time and our team now includes an additional clinical nurse specialist, a project support officer, three healthcare assistants and a nursing assistant.
“Patients are generally referred to us by our ward colleagues so we can assess their needs in a holistic way, which often leads to a series of therapeutic activities being developed to stimulate the patient’s brain and to keep them active while in hospital.
“We also help patients’ families and carers to better understand their loved one’s dementia, as well as thinking about the practical things they can do to make life more comfortable and manageable.
“In addition, we’re on hand to support our ward colleagues when they care for a person with dementia.
“The feedback from colleagues on our wards has been great – they’ve told us that they enjoy working alongside our dementia team as we’re able to spend that extra bit of time with our patients.
“In effect, we act as a bit of an advocate for patients, helping to ensure that they and their loved ones understand what’s happening to them as much as practically possible. It’s really important that families have an understanding of dementia as it can be an unsettling time for them.
“It has been fantastic to work so closely with our Musgrove Park, community services and mental health colleagues, especially as it has led us to jointly develop the first ever dementia strategy that covers the whole of Somerset’s NHS community, including our merged trust.”
With the Yeovil District Hospital team being established over the best part of a decade, colleagues have recently been sharing their learning and experiences with the newly formed team based at Musgrove Park Hospital.
Becky Furzer, our dementia and delirium trainee advanced care practitioner, who works out of Musgrove Park Hospital, said: “Our team is very much in its infancy and one of the first things I did when I came into the role was to meet up with my counterpart Kirsty, so we could learn from the experiences of the Yeovil Hospital team, including the criteria and referral process they use.
“I was also able to assess what had worked well in Yeovil, and what we could do differently. It was great to share ideas with each other, which helped to improve both of our services.
“The merger of our trusts will only strengthen our knowledge and resilience as one team for Somerset, which will have great benefits for patients with dementia and their families.”
As the two teams formally join together, Becky reflects on how it will in fact be very much business as usual as the teams have already been working closely.
“We link in together every morning and also regularly speak to colleagues from our intensive dementia support services and our older people’s mental health ward – Pyrland ward in Taunton,” she added.
“The merger feels so natural for us as we’ve been working together with our Yeovil colleagues since we launched our team. Our respective support workers have been shadowing each other and we’ve run joint training days too.
“The benefits of our teams coming together are great for our patients, particularly those who live in between Taunton and Yeovil who may be admitted to a ward on either hospital.
“With both our teams following the same processes, it means the care we give will be consistent and more equal across the county, whether a patient is in Yeovil Hospital, Musgrove Park Hospital, or our community hospitals.
“Our team is also growing as, alongside my role as specialist nurse, we have an education facilitator and three support workers. With the huge demand on our service and the need to provide a service into the evening and at weekends, we’re currently recruiting a further three clinical nurse specialists and a further three support workers too.
“And we’re not stopping there. Our ambition as a merged team is to look at how we could assign an individual dementia support worker to every ward that’s most likely to care for patients with dementia or delirium.”