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Innovative Dementia Care training at Milton Keynes Hospital

Milton Keynes Hospital is a medium-sized district general hospital, employing 3,000 staff to serve Milton Keynes and surrounding areas. The hospital has approximately 400 inpatient beds and provides a broad range of general medical services.

Milton Keynes Hospital wanted to improve the quality of support and care it provides to its patients with dementia. Dementia is a common condition that affects around 800,000 people in the UK, with the number increasing as people live longer. By 2021, it is estimated around one million people in the UK will have dementia.

Jon White, Senior Nurse in Practice Development, said, “A very significant number of the patients admitted to hospitals like our own have dementia. Estimates are about one in four of the patients on our wards”.

With the number likely to increase over the coming years, the Hospital decided it wanted to rapidly upskill 50 healthcare assistants to be subject experts on the wards. It was important that the assistants spent the least amount of time away from the workplace as possible to minimise the impact on the wards, while still having access to high quality, effective training that would deliver real and immediate impacts.

A flexible offering was required

Need:

Milton Keynes Hospital wanted to improve the quality of support and care it provides to its patients with dementia. Dementia is a common condition that affects around 800,000 people in the UK, with the number increasing as people live longer. By 2021, it is estimated around one million people in the UK will have dementia.

Jon White, Senior Nurse in Practice Development, said, “A very significant number of the patients admitted to hospitals like our own have dementia. Estimates are about one in four of the patients on our wards”.

With the number likely to increase over the coming years, the Hospital decided it wanted to rapidly upskill 50 healthcare assistants to be subject experts on the wards. It was important that the assistants spent the least amount of time away from the workplace as possible to minimise the impact on the wards, while still having access to high quality, effective training that would deliver real and immediate impacts.

Solution:

Milton Keynes Hospital approached The Open University (OU) due to its background of teaching busy staff – over 70% of OU students work while studying – and its experience of working with organisations to deliver learning at scale. Discussions between Milton Keynes Hospital and the OU on the Hospital’s challenges and goals led to an ideal solution in the OU course ‘Improving Dementia Care’.

Online modules were combined with course support and the Hospital’s in-house training resources, to create a programme that would encourage staff to reflect on their learning and consider how they would immediately apply their newly gained knowledge into their roles. Jon said, “We’ve provided a number of initiatives with dementia training; probably the most significant so far has been the programme we have provided through working with the OU. About 40 hours of online study, but around that we created a structured learning environment with contact days where the healthcare assistants could meet and discuss more issues around dementia with Tracy Davis, our Dementia Nurse.”

Tracy Davis said, “As a Trust we are becoming far more dementia aware and dementia friendly and to have these people who are taking the lead and saying 'stop this really important', is such a positive change for the Hospital and our patients.”

Pippa Gough, Trustee of the Alzheimer’s Society, is a major advocate of the programme. She said, “It is hugely important right now to gear ourselves up for providing support for people with dementia, providing support for people who care for dementia, and trying to enable people with dementia to live well. The initiative done with the OU and Milton Keynes Trust is absolutely vital, as it is showcasing the sorts of interventions that employers can do with their healthcare assistants, which helps build skills and knowledge.”

Impact:

A major objective of the programme was for the healthcare assistants to share their knowledge with others and make real impacts on the wards and with their teams. Jon said, “What we did here in Milton Keynes was to give that experience to 50 individuals so that when they came into clinical practice, their voice was much, much louder and what we found was their ability to influence and make changes and improvements was considerably enhanced.”

Healthcare assistants who have trained on the programme have really stood out, demonstrating leadership qualities and new ways of thinking. Tracy said, “They have gained in confidence and if you gain in confidence in one aspect of your working life then you tend to gain in confidence in all aspects. And they’re just so much more aware of what’s right for somebody with dementia, so they’re leading the way on the wards.”

Jon said, “I’m consistently impressed with Healthcare Assistants in Milton Keynes Hospital, but the 50 that have attended the course have really impressed me. They’re very professional, very committed and have come up with some excellent ideas that make care even better.”

The success of the programme Milton Keynes Hospital and the strong collaboration between the organisations will hopefully lead to more projects in the future. Jon said, “It has been a resounding success. We’ve had a great relationship with The Open University during the delivery and creation of this course and I think we are going to work with them quite a lot more.”

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