Southampton's enhanced dementia care ward celebrates its first year at grand opening event

G7 opening group banner

For a year it has been pioneering a new approach to supporting patients who are affected by dementia. This week, patients and their families gathered with staff to celebrate this milestone for G7 ward, the enhanced dementia care ward based at Southampton General Hospital.

G7 was set up in 2017 as a safer, calmer environment where patients with complex dementia and delirium can receive medical treatment. The ward is designed to be small enough for patients to safely walk around, and looks less clinical and more like home. Led by older persons’ mental health consultant Vicki Osman-Hicks, a team of specialists works to ensure that patients get the treatment they need while also having their mental health needs met. Staff make the patients’ stays interesting and stimulating, organising activities for the patients like music (provided by housekeeper Guy on the guitar), nail art and even an in-ward street party for the royal wedding.

Among those who contributed to the event, which also served as the official ‘opening’ for the ward, was Jonathan Brown, whose wife Elizabeth spent time on G7 before she sadly died earlier this year. In a letter that he sent to the ward he described how much he felt involved in the care of his wife, ‘a woman of great intelligence, courage and determination’ who battled bipolar disorder, Parkinson’s disease and, in her later years, dementia.

“Everyone jokes that G7 has magical doors,” says Janine Field, senior nurse on G7, explaining that patients can seem totally different once they are transferred there. The secret is not magic but what Janine calls ‘going right back to basics’ – taking the time to learn about the patient and engaging their families in their treatment. This was Jonathan’s experience during his wife’s stay; staff recognised that he understood Elizabeth best and consulted him often. He says: “It was a great relief to me that the medical staff did listen to me consistently and took note of my views.” When Elizabeth sadly died in February, Jonathan thanked staff for ensuring that the end of her life was peaceful and comfortable, and also praised the G7 team’s ability to support not only their patients, but the patients’ families as well.

At Wednesday’s grand opening ceremony, it was clear that these families are an important part of the G7 community. Cutting the ribbon to officially open the ward was Vicky, whose father was a patient on the ward before he died. She thanked the team for the way they cared for him during his stay, saying that she went home at night knowing that he was in a safe place.

Audience (4)

Following the grand opening, staff and guests headed to one of the hospital’s lecture theatres, where they enjoyed an evening of presentations on dementia care and how the specialist dementia ward has transformed care for patients with the condition. The wide range of professions involved in G7’s success was reflected in the speakers, who included doctors, nurses, an occupational therapist, a pharmacist, business managers, a fundraising officer and a medical student. Prosecco for a toast at the reception afterwards was provided by yet another family who wanted to give something back to the team that had cared for their loved one.

When asked what it is that makes G7 special, matron Stephen Hicks was quick to answer that it is the staff, adding that everyone who works there volunteered to be part of this new service a year ago without knowing how successful it would be.

To find out more about the pioneering G7 ward and its achievements in its first year, visit the G7 section of our website.

For updates on G7 and opportunities to help with fundraising for the ward, follow them @EdcuG7 (Twitter), @g7edcu (Instagram) or facebook.com/g7ward

Posted on Friday 25 May 2018