We chose to visit wards in St Thomas’ Older Persons Unit as part of our work stream assessing services for older people. Anne and Henry Wards is a mixed geriatric wards used for rehabilitating older patients and those requiring palliative and end of life care.
We aimed to gather older people’s views of being in hospital and to talk to patients about their perceptions of the discharge process. Patients we spoke to were also invited to participate in the pilot phase of our new ‘Going Home’ project to track patients’ experiences of hospital discharge and the ensuing transfer of care process. During our visit, we talked to 12 patients (five on Anne Ward and seven on Henry Ward), five visiting family members (one on Anne Ward and four on Henry), and three members of staff (the ward sisters and the Discharge Facilitator on Anne Ward who is on a six month secondment from the British Red Cross).
To aid their observations, the Enter and View team used the dementia friendly assessment tool included in the patient-led assessments of the care environment (PLACE) visits for hospitals.
Environment: On arrival, both wards appeared welcoming, clean and pleasantly decorated. There was natural light in both facilities and Anne Ward offered views of the Thames and Houses of Parliament. There was no traffic or other disturbing noise during our visit.
Décor: The floor colour contrasted with the walls and furniture, as did the light switches, and there were no strong patterns as recommended. The toilet doors were in a single distinctive colour on Anne Ward but on one corridor on Henry Ward, the toilet doors were in two different colours to match the bay they served.
Care: The care was good. Comments included: ‘It’s wonderful, very good. Can’t fault it’ and ‘Oh yeah, they’re looking after me’. These sentiments were echoed by a family member visiting Henry Ward: ‘They take care of the patients, no complaints’.
We made some recommendations following our visit:
- Corridors should be kept clear of obstructions wherever possible and the positioning of unattended cleaning trolleys on the wards should be reviewed.
- While the majority of the ward environment was already dementia friendly, the Trust should ensure that it addresses the few specific issues outlined above through its cyclical decorations and refurbishment programmes, to ensure that the facilities continue to meet the PLACE specification for dementia.
Our overall impression of the two wards during our visit was of teams providing a good level of care in a pleasant environment. However, patients would seem to appreciate and benefit from more interaction with staff to reassure and support them during their stay on the ward.