On Thursday 9th of March Sir Tony Robinson joined the hospital’s Forever Friends Appeal, their guests and staff at Bath’s Royal United Hospital (RUH) to celebrate the pioneering new Volunteer Dementia Project. The celebration marked the launch of the innovative £200k  project which will take a more holistic and progressive approach aimed at transforming dementia services at the hospital, through a volunteer driven programme.

The Forever Friends Appeal is the primary charity for the RUH and raises funds to provide state-of-the-art equipment and facilities. Working in partnership with the Appeal, the RUH’s Dementia Care Service will provide a new approach to caring for people with dementia.

The pilot project will run initially for three years and will provide up to 160 volunteer placements and 4,800 hours of care for patients with dementia at the RUH. It will include a Volunteer Befriending Service and volunteer led activities, which will be organised by the newly appointed coordinator, employed by the Alzheimer’s Society, Brogan Knight. Brogan commented “I’m thrilled to be a part of the Volunteer dementia project. I’m excited to get the activities set-up and running, so all persons with dementia in the RUH can have a positive experience through their stay, as well as being able to see the talents and enthusiasm that the volunteers will bring to the project! The project will make a huge difference within the RUH and I’m excited to see the results this will have for the persons living with dementia, volunteers and staff”. Also included in the project is the use of state-of-the-art Reminiscence Pods; these pods are pop-up scenes such as a retro kitchen or beach scene, and were featured on BBC’s Dragon’s Den. The pods have a calming effect on patients and allow them to relax within a hospital environment.

The Forever Friends Appeal and the RUH Dementia Care Service are working with key partners: The Alzheimer’s Society, Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership and Research Institute for Care of the Elderly (RICE) to help improve treatment and care for patients with dementia. Consultant Geriatrician and project lead Dr Chris Dyer commented: “By combining our knowledge and expertise with that of our project partners, it will help develop this program and really test out its value in caring for patients with dementia.  The three year Volunteer Dementia Project will help the RUH pilot and research the need for longer term work in this area, and hopefully also provide a blueprint for a future national model of care.”

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The aim of the project is to improve the patient experience and outcomes, for example, levels of agitation and distress, and length of stay, which will be beneficial to patients, their carers and staff. RICE will research and evaluate the project linked with patients’ wellbeing and outcomes, which will be presented to the RUH to highlight any need to expand the project and to secure more sustainable funding.

Sir Tony Robinson, an advocate of Dementia care said “I’m delighted to be a part of this launch; I hope this project will take the lead and encourage other District General Hospitals to provide similar services for patients suffering from dementia. It is such a debilitating disease and this new service should make a real difference for patients and their loved ones when they come into hospital.”

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Tim Hobbs, head of the fundraising team at The Forever Friends Appeal commented “We are so pleased to have secured the core funding to go ahead with the Volunteer Dementia Project and are particularly indebted to The Medlock Charitable Trust for their early and significant support that has underpinned the fundraising effort. This is an opportunity to take the lead and set a new standard for dementia care in hospitals such as the RUH. The pilot is funded by our supporters, and to our knowledge, there is no other project like this in the UK. Working with our project partners and with Dr Chris Dyer taking the lead, we hope this will be a successful initiative which, with public support, will be able to further expand.”

The Forever Friends Appeal is also planning to develop a new major campaign over the coming months that is focused on the aim of the RUH to be a leading Dementia Friendly Hospital.  This new campaign will sit alongside work that they are already undertaking to complete the fundraising for the new Cancer Centre, and the Brownsword Match Funding Challenge for the new RNHRD & Therapies Centre.”

Although core funding for the project to launch has now been secured, The Forever Friends Appeal is now working on expanding the project to reach more patients with dementia at the RUH. For more information about supporting the project, please visit our Dementia page.

If you’re interested in volunteering for the project please contact Brogan Knight Volunteer Coordinator 07702 108 994 or email: Brogan.Knight@alzheimers.org.uk