Environments of care for people with dementia

The Department of Health has commissioned The King's Fund to develop a number of specific programmes to enhance the environment of care as part of its work to improve the patient experience. The most recent of these has been a programme to improve the care environment for people with dementia in hospital to support the implementation of the national dementia strategy.

What are the current issues for people with dementia?

Twenty five per cent of people accessing acute hospital services are likely to have dementia and the number of people with dementia is expected to double during the next 30 years. Hospital stays are recognised to have detrimental effects on people with dementia.

Generally, there is a low level of knowledge in the health professions – even among those who have been trained to care for people with dementia – and among estates and facilities staff about what makes a positive therapeutic environment for people with dementia. The volume of applications for the EHE programmes has shown that there is a considerable level of interest in creating dementia-friendly environments and there is a desire across the service for practical advice to enhance the quality of the care provided to people with dementia.

What has the EHE programme achieved so far?

The EHE programme to improve the environment of care for people with dementia was funded by the Department of Health. It involved 23 teams from acute, community and mental health NHS trusts who have worked on a range of projects across the dementia care pathway and sought to make hospital environments less alienating for people with cognitive problems. In 2009, ten mental health trusts joined the dementia care programme and ten acute trusts and two community trusts followed in 2010. Find out more about the organisations participating in the programme with our list on the right.

Projects have demonstrated that relatively inexpensive interventions, such as changes to lighting, floor coverings and improved way-finding, can have a significant impact. Evaluation has shown that environmental improvements can have a positive effect on reduction in falls, violent and aggressive behaviours, and staff recruitment and retention. The EHE schemes are already showing that it is possible to improve the quality and outcomes of care for people with dementia as well as improving staff morale and reducing overall costs by making inexpensive changes to the environment of care.

See our EHE and dementia care completed projects

Tools and resources: Developing supportive design for people with dementia

To support clinical staff and their estates colleagues, The King's Fund has produced a range of resources to enable hospitals and care homes to become more dementia friendly.

Find out more about our EHE dementia tools and design principles