Dementia-friendly unit opens at West Heath Hospital

A new dementia-friendly care unit has today (21 July) opened at West Heath Hospital in Birmingham. Designed to provide a stepping stone back to independent living for patients who have been admitted to hospital but suffer with dementia, the new unit has been designed by Worcester design company One Creative Environments Ltd (One) and delivered by BaS LIFT and specialist healthcare developer, Prime plc, in conjunction with Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust (BCHC).

The new intermediate care unit incorporates some of the latest principles in dementia-friendly design to provide a modern, rehabilitative environment for up to 18 older patients. Located within an existing building in the heart of the hospital site, the major refurbishment has been funded by the Department of Health’s Kings Fund – an independent charity which helps shape policy and best practice in healthcare.

Healthcare design specialists, One, worked closely with BCHC and the King’s Fund on the designs for the new facility, which is part of a national pilot scheme to deliver better care environments for people with dementia. The unit features six private en-suite rooms, and three, four-bed bays with an innovative layout to improve privacy and dignity for patients. Many rooms have full height windows that overlook the garden to promote a calm and healing environment.

To facilitate regular daily activities and opportunities to socialise, the unit has an open plan kitchen where people can prepare their own snacks, a lounge area with a fireplace surround and bookcase, as well as several breakout seating areas. The unit also has a multimedia player where visitors can share photos and videos to help stimulate memories. The use of colour, contrasting wall and floor finishes, simple signage and easy to use taps, showers and lights all help patients to live as independently as possible while they are recuperating, ready to go back home.

Outside, a specialist dementia-friendly garden has been designed to allow patients to enjoy the outdoors. Accessed from the day spaces, the garden provides a therapeutic environment with outdoor seating, raised planters for patients with an interest in gardening and a design that will stimulate the senses through the use of colour, touch and smell.

BaS LIFT helped the Trust to secure almost £1m in funding for the creation of the dementia friendly unit through the King’s Fund. Money has been made available through the fund for care environments – such as hospitals and care homes – to become more supportive for people with dementia.

Ben Gwilliam, Development Director at BaS LIFT said: “For us, the project at West Heath Hospital has been both challenging and rewarding. We helped to secure funding with the Trust for the new unit in June 2013 and work started onsite in November. It was a tight turnaround for such a comprehensive refurbishment but the end result is great – a real credit to the hospital and a valuable asset in the care they offer for older patients.”

Steve Hance, Associate Director of Architecture at One said: “The new unit at West Heath Hospital has been created using dementia friendly design principles to provide a simple and uncluttered environment for patients. Everything is very intuitive and familiar, from turning on a tap to finding their way around the unit, which all helps to reduce confusion and agitation, and improve wellbeing. We worked closely with the Trust to ensure we would also meet the needs of the healthcare professionals working in the unit, so they would have a safe and stimulating place to observe, assess and rehabilitate patients with dementia.”

Andy Harrison, Chief Operating Officer at Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust said: “The number of patients we care for with physical health needs that have underlying dementia is growing, year on year, in line with national trends.

“In response to this, we have developed this innovative facility at West Heath Hospital using national best practice and design to create an environment designed to be highly sensitive to the needs of people with dementia.

Many people with dementia find it stressful to be admitted to an inpatient facility so this ward will have direct benefits for the patients who need to use it.”