Improved dementia awareness planned for Queen Alexandra Hospital after patient's 'difficult' experience

THE treatment of dementia patients, as well as communication with relatives, at Queen Alexandra Hospital is set for an overhaul as one woman shared a ‘difficult’ experience when her husband was admitted to A&E this summer.

By Fiona Callingham
Friday, 8th October 2021, 1:17 pm

Resident Valerie Ormonde-Dobbin recounted how she struggled to speak to staff about her elderly husband Tony, and feared his diagnosis with dementia was not taken into account while he was an in-patient for six days.

Speaking at a Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust (PHU) board meeting she explained how she travelled with him to the emergency department on June 20 after he suffered an extreme headache, double vision and difficulty breathing.

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GV of QA hospital, Portsmouth on 15 October 2020. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Despite his bloods being taken quickly they were not seen by a doctor until 1am and Tony was booked for a CT scan as it was feared he had a bleed on his brain.

However, the scan was taken too late after his initial symptoms so the results came back inconclusive.

Valerie said: ‘The doctor said he would be taken to a ward to be made more comfortable.

‘His support worker told me I could stay in the chair beside his bed but then someone else said no, I had to go home.

Dementia generic

‘I was tired, I thought it’s no time to be calling someone to go home and I am nervous about taking a taxi.

‘I went into the waiting area in MAU and sat in a chair at the back. A doctor came out and said “I didn’t know you were still here.” The hospital had been trying to get information from me. When I got home I saw they had called me 14 times.

‘They had no information about how he was and how the dementia affects him.’

Valerie was eventually able to get home using a taxi but she then had problems visiting during his stay.

‘I was told he could only have one visitor,’ she said.

‘In three weeks’ time I am due to have spinal surgery and I am in agony. So getting up to the hospital is awful.

‘In certain circumstances they should allow someone else to be with him to reassure him.

‘My husband is manageable but his memory is about a minute long. Doctors could ask how he is doing and he could smile and say he’s fine when he’s not.

‘When he was discharged I had not been given any information about if there was going to be a follow-up.

‘After he came home I noticed across his lids and both eyes he had lots of blisters as if he had something wrong. He refused to let me ring 111 and I have to admit I was scared about him going in again.’

Emily Oliver, PHU’s lead nurse for dementia who took on the position in February, said ‘immediate’ changes had been made after hearing Valerie and Tony’s story.

Speaking at the board meeting she said: ‘We knew the dementia training wasn’t quite what it needed to be.

‘All of our clinical and non-clinical staff are receiving dementia awareness training and we are working with the university to get their three tier standard.

‘We will also recruit an admiral nurse, who is a dementia specialist nurse.

Relatives would be able to contact the admiral nurse to make sure they and the patient had the support they needed.’

Going forward a three-year strategy on how to improve dementia awareness among staff at QA has been set out, dementia training is being reviewed and dementia volunteers will be introduced in all wards from January.

Board director and vice-chancellor of the university, Graham Galbraith, said: ‘It’s a very moving story.

‘I just wonder if there is a bigger issue which is about our admissions process. I would love a process review of what happens. I think it’s an issue across our system because we are so busy thinking about the bit in between we are not thinking about the communication at each end.’

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