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Transforming services for people with dementia

Health and social care organisations across Darlington are working together to dramatically improve care for people with dementia.

The Darlington Dementia Collaborative is made up of doctors, nurses, social workers and other health professionals from Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, Darlington Borough Council and NHS County Durham and Darlington. 

Together they are transforming dementia services across the town. They have cut waiting times, reduced hospital stays, improved access to services and increased the amount of time doctors and nurses are able to spend with patients.

Over the last 18 months health and social care professionals have been using well established quality improvement techniques to bring about these changes.

They have worked with patients, carers and colleagues to identify areas where change was needed and held a number of workshops where ideas for improvement where developed and implemented.

Some of the improvements have included the introduction of daily ward reviews at Darlington Memorial Hospital to remove unnecessary delays for patients and establishing a full-time psychiatric liaison nurse on the ward to help identify patients who need specialist care.

All staff on the ward have also received training in assessing patients for dementia and delirium and report that they are better equipped to manage patients who are confused.

As a result of the changes the average length of stay on the ward has reduced from 16 to 10 days and patients are seeing a specialist liaison nurse within a day (this could have previously taken up to five days).

Patients who need longer term support are also being referred sooner. Those who need continuing care can expect a response within two days, compared to 27 days previously, and those who need social care packages can expect a response within 15 days, compared to 54 days.

They have also introduced a single point of access for patients who need additional support to enable them to stay at home which has reduced response times from 11 days to 7 days.

Martin Barkley, chief executive of Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, said: "This has been a great opportunity for staff from health, social care and the independent sector to work together, using our quality improvement system, for the benefit of people with dementia.

"This system empowers staff to make changes. It gives them the tools to help identify and remove waste so that they can focus on what adds value  - improving the lives of our patients."

Stephen Eames, chief executive of County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, said: "By taking this collaborative approach we have seen some really creative initiatives take place to address the issues and find solutions, which reflect the national agenda.

"Engagement from staff and the feedback we have received has been incredibly positive and the outcomes will serve to improve the care and support for those people living with dementia in Darlington, as well as for their carers and families."

Ada Burns, chief executive of Darlington Borough Council, said:  "This programme is bringing about benefits because staff who really understand the service are in the lead and because we are working together across organisation boundaries to put people's needs first.

"We've achieved a great deal but we are not complacent and will continue to work hard to improve services."

Pat Keane, deputy chief executive with NHS County Durham and Darlington said: "We are pleased to be part of this important project to help improve dementia services in Darlington. 

"The work that has been carried out in the last 18 months has been made possible due to the vital contribution of patients and their carers and the dedication of health and social care professionals from partner organisations."


Published: 19 July 2011

'I feel it is important to relay my experience back to let the staff know they are doing a brilliant job! I would like them to know I appreciated all they did for myself, my family and our beautiful baby girl.'

Patient, Labour Ward, Darlington Memorial Hospital