Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (SASH) has reached a landmark by training 4000 people to become Dementia Friends, improving the experience for patients when they come to hospital. Staff nurse Keone Mzingwani was presented with a special certificate during Dementia Action Week for being the 4000th Dementia Friend at the Trust.

The Dementia Friends is an initiative created by the Alzheimer’s Society and the training was introduced at SASH in 2016. All staff and volunteers who work at East Surrey Hospital complete a session.

The aim of the session is to change people’s perceptions of the condition, encourage staff to learn about how dementia impacts on people and know the steps they can take to make the experience of care in hospital better.

Dementia Action Week (16 – 22 May 2022) is an opportunity to help people start a conversation, challenge misconceptions and encourage them to take action to improve the lives of people living with dementia.

East Surrey Hospital was named the country’s best dementia friendly hospital in 2019. To build on its successes, this year SASH has updated its dementia strategy with an ambition to make even more improvements.

The vision in the policy states “People living with dementia who use our services will receive outstanding, person-centred care by a compassionate and caring workforce who will also be responsive to the needs of the families and carers. We want patients living with dementia and their carers to be active participants in their care, from admission to discharge. To support this, our staff will follow the principles of the 5Cs in dementia care developed as part of the Trust’s dementia pathway.”

The five Cs are:

  1. Caring: staff will provide person centred care to all patients.
  2. Communication: staff will ensure that communication is optimised.
  3. Collateral: a good collateral history is taken.
  4. Cognition: checking the patient’s baseline cognition.
  5. Capacity: ensure that for any decisions a two-stage capacity assessment is carried out.

The focus of this year’s Dementia Action Week is diagnosis. Research from the Alzheimer’s Society has highlighted that the biggest barrier to people seeking a dementia diagnosis is the misconception around memory loss and it being a normal sign of ageing.  

With diagnosis rates falling to a five-year low, they want to encourage those who might be living with undiagnosed dementia to seek guidance and support and feel empowered to take the next step.

Often an admission to hospital can be the first contact a patient has had with a health professional for some time. This may be the first time these memory problems have been identified and assessed.  The admission can act as the first step towards the patient getting a formal diagnosis and subsequent support in the community for them and their family.

To mark Dementia Action Week, SASH worked with partners including First Community Health and Care, the Alzheimer’s Society, The Red Cross and Carers Support for Surrey and Sussex, to run an information stand at East Surrey Hospital. 

Chris O’Connor, Consultant Admiral Nurse at SASH said: “We can all make a positive difference to the hospital experience of people living with dementia or those experiencing memory problems. It’s great that we now have 4000 dementia friends and we’re taking the opportunity this week to remind all staff about the role they can play.”


Dementia Action Week takes place between Monday 16 - Sunday 22 May 2022

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