Dementia Friendly unit for West Heath Hospital

Plans have been revealed for an 18-bed care unit at West Heath Hospital after Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust (BCHC) was among more than 100 hospitals across England awarded a share of a £49 million fund to create care environments designed to be sensitive to the needs of people with dementia.

BCHC has been working on the project with Birmingham and Solihull LIFT (BaS LIFT) and as part of the Department of Health project the Trust has been given a grant of £996,662 to develop a dementia-friendly ward at the Rednal Road site.

The near-£50 million total allocation shared between 116 health and social care provision sites will enable specially designed ward environments to be created, with colour-coding and symbols to help patients navigate their environment and a range of innovative features specifically chosen to optimise the quality of care provided for people with dementia.

The West Heath development will see the construction of a dedicated intermediate inpatient care unit on the site. BCHC hopes to receive the first patients at the proposed unit in April 2014.

Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust chief operating officer Andy Harrison said: “We are delighted to have received this allocation which, subject to consultation and planning consent, would have a direct benefit for a significant proportion of our patients.

“More than a third of the people we care for in our inpatient units have a dementia-related diagnosis on top of their primary reason for being admitted. Many people with dementia find it very stressful to be admitted to an inpatient facility and may suffer a loss of confidence and independence as a result. This, in turn, makes it more difficult for their rehabilitation and return home after they are discharged.”

The planned unit will:

  • support patients to return home if possible
  • promote independence and reduce lengths of inpatient stay
  • provide staff with a modern, fit-for-purpose environment to provide excellent care
  • include space for relatives and carers to be actively involved in care
  • provide indoor and outdoor space and equipment for appropriate therapeutic activity
  • give patients greater privacy and dignity
  • reduce the risk of injury from trips and falls
  • reduce patients’ stress and increase their independence
  • promote equality and create opportunities for community engagement.
  • facilitate improved sleep patterns and quality of life


The proposed environment for the new unit will inform refurbishment plans for the other wards at West Heath from 2014 and support the introduction of the proposed Birmingham dementia strategy .

Announcing the new funding, Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt said: “This pilot scheme will form an important first step towards driving forward better care environments for people with dementia. Funding was awarded to projects that demonstrate how practical changes to the environment within which people with dementia are treated in will make a tangible improvement to their condition.”

The projects will form part of the first national pilot to showcase the best examples of dementia-friendly environments across England, to build evidence around the type of physical changes that have the most benefit for dementia patients.

Cluttered ward layouts and poor signage in hospitals and care homes were cited as the top reasons for causing confusion and distress in people with dementia in research conducted by The King’s Fund. Replacing reflective sanitary ware (toilets, basins etc.) and surfaces, and installing clearer signage using distinctive colours and pictures, has been shown to help dementia patients manage their condition better by helping to reduce confusion and agitation.