Leading Spanish doctor chooses GWH as first stop on international trip to find best dementia care

Posted: July 14, 2017

Exemplary care prompts dignitary visit

One of Spain's most influential medical minds visited Swindon this week to witness the Great Western Hospital's innovative approach to dementia care. 

Dr Ana Urrutia arrived at GWH on Thursday 13 July to meet the staff providing specialist care to vulnerable patients and to learn more about Jupiter Ward, the hospital's state-of-the-art dementia-friendly environment. 

The short tour of GWH formed part of the geriatrician's wider travels across Europe, in which she aims to bring the very best examples of dementia care from across the continent back to her native country. 

Spain is one of the few countries that still uses controversial methods of physical restraint when treating people with a mental health impairment, such as dementia. 

Dr Urrutia has long been an advocate of providing patients with the kind of compassionate, person-centred care that is standard practice at GWH and at other similar hospitals across the UK and Europe. 

The insight gained in Swindon will support Dr Urrutia's long-term hopes of introducing legislation in Spain that will overrule the use of either chemical or mechanical restraint. 

Wendy Johnson, Head of Mental Health, said: "It was a real honour for us to be singled out as a hospital that is leading the way in dementia care. 

"For the past few years, we have worked incredibly hard to ensure that we can fully meet the needs of dementia patients and offer them the care and support needed to make their stay in hospital as pleasant and as comfortable as possible. 

"As people live longer, more and more of our elderly friends and relatives are developing dementia, which is why it is so important for us to be able to offer care that's personal to them in an environment that not only makes them feel safe and secure, but also calm and relaxed." 

Following a £100,000 transformation project in 2014, Jupiter Ward, one of GWH's dedicated older person's wards, is now complete dementia-friendly. 

The old floor tiles, which often caused dementia patients to fall as they mistook the light reflected on the surface for pools of water, has been replaced with a new, non-shiny, wood-effect surface. 

Other changes include the installation of special clocks that say whether it is day or night, bedside nursing stations which allow staff to respond to patients quicker and the introduction of coloured plates at meal times, which help patients finish their meals as some forms of dementia can cause a person to overlook pale food, such as potatoes and bread, when served on white plates. 

All bays are colour coordinated too, with each one named after an animal or object of the same colour, to help patients remember where they are staying. 

Specially trained dementia champions are also based on the ward to provide support, assistance and training to other members of staff. 

For more information on dementia care at the Great Western Hospital, visit www.gwh.nhs.uk.