The South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group and Devon Partnership NHS Trust were jointly named Dementia Team of the Year at a British Medical Journal awards ceremony this week.
The award is in recognition of the work undertaken in care homes, where dementia champions are placed to improve knowledge, leadership skills and confidence among staff.
The project to establish the Torbay and South Devon dementia care home learning community, identified dementia champions in each home, working with them to improve knowledge, leadership skills and confidence. Other staff were also trained, though less intensively.
The aim was to improve care in the homes, and reduce emergency admissions. The first appears to have been achieved, with good feedback from patients and carers; the second will be the subject of longer-term analysis, conducted independently by a team at Plymouth University.
Raising the quality of care in residential homes is demanding, admits Dr David Somerfield of Devon Partnership NHS Trust. A TV documentary by Gerry Robinson in 2009 had shown that South Devon had some of the best and some of the worst dementia care homes. “That galvanised us, but we couldn’t get the funding at the time” he says. The Prime Minister Dementia Challenge Fund came to the rescue with a two-year grant worth £255,000.
“One problem is that as soon as you have trained one lot of staff, they’re gone. So we got together with care home owners and tried to identify people who would be around a while. With 180 care homes in South Devon and the attainment standards of staff generally low, you can’t hope to do it all at once. We focussed on 13 homes and used another ten as controls.”
The awards judges said:
“This innovative project was truly person centred and is improving care for some of the most disenfranchised and vulnerable people in society – those with dementia who live in care homes.
Its use of change management encourages staff to develop reminiscence rooms and activities that turn ritualistic care into care that staff feel proud of. This low cost intervention is highly sustainable and its outcomes are being formally studied by Plymouth University.”
Read more about the Torbay and South Devon dementia care home learning community