Day unit for older people with dementia opens at Dorset County Hospital

A specialist new facility for older people with dementia was unveiled by Minette Walters, best-selling author and Patron of the League of Friends, at Dorset County Hospital (DCH) NHS Foundation Trust on Monday 3 August. The unit, the first of its kind in a South West Acute Hospital Trust, will offer a supportive environment for patients at risk of dementia as they receive medical treatment for other health conditions.

Expert support will be available for dementia sufferers at the new facility that forms an extension to Barnes Ward at DCH. Staff will be on hand to care for dementia patients with reminiscence therapy, memorabilia and other effective treatments. Their primary care objective will be to ease the concerns of possibly confused elderly patients as they receive treatment for non-related health procedures.

The forward-looking Dorset County Hospital is the first Hospital Trust in the South West to open this type of facility. The League of Friends, a local charitable organisation has donated over £2,500 towards the special care unit. The Hospital’s Foundation Trust will ensure additional funding is available and that skilled staff with specific training in elderly dementia provide hands-on support and assistance.

The facility forms part of the National Dementia plan and came about after a review team toured South West Hospitals to assess how services for older people could be improved at DCH. Minette Walters was invited to open the unit as part of her continued support for elderly care issues.

Debbie Baxter, Barnes Ward Head Sister at Dorset County Hospital, said:

‘Nationally there is a real need for improved dementia services and capabilities. Dorset County Hospital prides itself on excellent patient care, which is reflected in this new unit run by expertly trained staff able to assist patients receiving medical treatment who suffer from dementia. We’re delighted to welcome Minette Walters to open the unit – her ongoing support for hospital services is much appreciated here and in the community. This new unit will help those coming to the Hospital who suffer from dementia to receive medical assistance while being supported in an environment best suited to the memory-led patient care they need.’

Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust looks after the health needs of people throughout West Dorset, serving a largely rural population of 220,000 and employing over 3,300 staff. It is the main provider of acute hospital services for Weymouth and Portland, West Dorset, North Dorset and Purbeck and renal services for patients throughout Dorset and South Somerset. For county-wide services provided by the Trust, it serves a total population of 850,000 via Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester and periphery community hospitals. Staff also work in schools, residential homes, family doctor surgeries and in patients’ own homes.


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Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust achieved “Excellent” for quality of services and ‘Good’ for its use of resources in the latest NHS performance ratings (2007/2008) and waiting times continue to be among the shortest in the country. The Trust holds an NHS Beacon, recognising excellence in the management of waiting lists.

Dorset County Hospital is a 500–bed modern hospital that has been recognised as an Exemplar Site by the Department of Health. There are only eight such sites in the country – chosen because of the high quality of the patient environment.