I’d like to quote from a recent bulletin by Michael Wilson CBE (Chief Executive of Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust), referring to East Surrey Hospital, and ask you what you notice:

< Our commitment to patients living with cognitive impairment was recognised in the recent CQC feedback which noted how we acted effectively to meet the needs of our patients and adopted a range of initiatives such as the Butterfly Scheme, to help staff recognise and care for those patients living with cognitive impairment. As part of the Butterfly Scheme (…) we encourage patients with cognitive impairment, family members or carers to complete a Reach Out to Me document. This document, which includes information about preferences, routines and topics of conversation, helps us to tailor the best care to suit the needs of the patient. >

When I read that, I think back to when the scheme was in the planning stages, or even only a decade ago. CQC would at that time never have taken such an interest in the hospital experience of people needing dementia-appropriate care; there was usually nothing specific in place to support those people and there certainly wasn’t a whole range of initiatives; most staff wouldn’t then have even known a person needed dementia-appropriate care; if they did know, they were highly unlikely to have been “helped to care” for those people (how I love that phrase!); the expert input of family members or the person’s usual carers not only wouldn’t have been welcomed, but would often have been viewed with annoyance, as if they were interfering rather than actively making life better for all; the concept of “tailoring the best care” to suit the individual was deemed unworkable, rather than the perfect approach for the benefit of patient, carer and the staff team alike.

Whilst we campaigners are always striving for further improvements in dementia care, we do sometimes need to acknowledge just how far we’ve already travelled. More and more often now, I see – and am always keen to acknowledge – beacons of absolute excellence in dementia care, but I’m certainly aware that hospital dementia care experiences still vary widely. One wonderful thing about Michel’s bulletin is that he, as Chief Executive, clearly recognises what excellent dementia care looks like; you might say people in his position ought to – and I agree – but I definitely don’t take it for granted.

I’d like to pay tribute here to Chris O’Connor, Consultant Admiral Nurse and Dementia Lead at East Surrey Hospital – and to the very many members of the East Surrey staff team, in many roles, who actively strive to keep on enhancing the dementia care they offer. Thank you to them and to all hospital teams striving to keep on making hospital dementia care the best it can be.