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Issue Date:- 23 July 2008


SOUTHPORT will be put on the map as a UK and international "service centre of excellence" for people with dementia when a £5 million development plan gets under way later in 2008.  Birch Abbey care home in Southport, which specialises in dementia care and support, will be more than tripled in size and feature groundbreaking technology and care and support techniques. Up to 30 highly specialised jobs will be created.  The technology developed and in use at Birch Abbey is already being sold internationally.

Dan Lingard, Chief Executive of Altrincham-based Melton Health Care Limited, which owns Birch Abbey care home in Southport, is a former software developer working with IBM and the BBC. He says much-misunderstood dementia needs to be fought, and sufferers supported and inspired rather than simply have their basic needs attended to. 

"We looked at more than 50 care homes when we decided to invest in this project. We chose Southport because the care home staff and senior professionals in the area are the most skilled, had the best attitude, show the best response to the needs of dementia sufferers and are the most caring and compassionate.  Care and support is in their DNA - they have a long tradition of care and support in the area, and because they have the right attitude they are the right people for us to invest in.  Our new Birch Abbey will be a revolution in care services for people with dementia and their families. To us it just felt right that Southport with its long tradition as a caring community should lead this revolution and the birth of a new era in care."  said Dan Lingard.

Birch Abbey currently has accommodation for 18 clients and has pioneered a specialist dementia patient monitoring system, MyAmego, an award-winning world 1st which is now being sold and installed in care homes internationally.

"Without having to close our doors, we are completely rebuilding Birch Abbey so that we will be able to accommodate 60 clients, and rather than simply gearing it to provide basic food, hygiene and life care for clients, we are designing in - from scratch - technology, accommodation, entertainment, activity, social interaction and a broad range of care services and features that have never been seen together under one roof in the care industry.  But, crucially, this is not just about a building - it is about an attitude to dementia care, service and support."

Dan invented the specialist dementia patient monitoring system, MyAmego. It recently won a New Product of the Year award at Naidex 2008, the UK's largest event for homecare, disability and rehabilitation.

"There are 2 issues - 1stly, driving an understanding that while the onset of dementia cannot be reversed, it can be contained or slowed, primarily by stimulating the mind and keeping the body even just mildly active.  We can address this through the combination of building design and content, technology, attitude to care and support - and our now famous chickens.  The issue for care service providers is driving activity, but also monitoring it as well. MyAmego is a fob which the patient wears or carries. In it is a microchip. Data about the movements of the patients is captured from the fob by monitors placed around the care home, the patient's own home or even in or nearby shops they might visit.   This enables the care team to monitor the movements of patients, not just for safety, but also to assess their activity levels. The system analyses location, activity and risk in relation to that patient's individual needs or circumstances - but will page, text or email carers for assistance only when appropriate.  In a nutshell, it ensures they're safe, but also ensures they are physically and mentally active, but also maintains an individual's privacy."  says Dan.

But where do the chickens come in?  "Getting dementia sufferers using their minds and muscles - even in seemingly small ways - can have a massively positive effect.  At Birch Abbey, we've created a 'living sensory garden' - the chickens draw patients out into the garden, they provide a talking point; what's more, our patients collect the eggs, make cakes or biscuits and talk about what they're doing amongst themselves and to their family members providing valuable mental stimulus.  But, furthermore, we are now planning to put a camera in the chicken run so that those who are less mobile can watch the chickens on TV monitors or computer screens, which again creates talking points and ensures everyone feels involved." says Dan.

Major ward refurbishment at Southport hospital

SOUTHPORT & Formby District General Hospital is set to see a major refurbishment of its wards over the next few years. This will consist of more single rooms providing higher levels of privacy and dignity while enabling us to continue to combat infections. The Trust is aiming for the highest possible standards in delivering patient care in modern, clean hotel-style surroundings. This investment in the hospital will ensure that the accommodation and supporting infrastructure will be fit to deliver 21st Century healthcare.

The hospital will be 20 years old this September and while there have been changes to the building during that time, as some wards have either changed their original use or have been updated to meet changing needs the main medical wards are still as they were originally designed in 1975.

A rolling programme of refurbishment of the medical wards will start in September this year. Although when built, the hospital reflected the nursing trends of the time, ideas and priorities have changed. In the 20 years since it opened a much greater emphasis has been put on the accommodation in which patients are nursed. There is now more need for single accommodation to help prevent healthcare associated infections and it has been recognised that privacy and dignity issues are of much greater importance to patients. There is a need for additional storage facilities to meet the needs of today's intensive medical equipment following great advances in technology.

At the moment the wards consist of mainly 6-bedded bays with some 4-bedded ones and a few single rooms. The refurbished wards will consist of 12 single rooms, of which 6 will have en-suite bathrooms, and three 3-bedded rooms.

Liz Yates, Director of Nursing said:- "Our aim is to improve the experience of our patients while they are in hospital at what we know is a traumatic time. The refurbishment will provide hotel style accommodation in which we can provide modern day nursing in an appropriately designed environment to meet current day needs. It will enable more efficient and effective use of space and will meet all the requirements of disabled patients. There will also be the provision of a quiet area on the wards for patients who might want to discuss issues with staff or family in more private surroundings."

The whole ergonomics and flow of the wards will be re-designed. The infrastructure, such as the ventilation systems will be updated and the finishes will be state of the art to add to our ability to keep the wards as clean as possible.  To enable the work to be done, ward 10a will close and work will start in that ward. When that is completed, patients will move across from ward 10b into the new accommodation and the work will start there.

Bosses sitting on billions of unused savings tell workers a better pay deal will cost jobs

INTRANSIGENT local government bosses are trying to terrify hard-up workers into believing a pay rise will cost them their job.

Public sector union UNISON says this is an unfounded and cruel claim being used to frighten people off going on strike.

The union says rather than cough up what it knows it can afford, the Local Government Association is claiming its 2.45% offer is final.

And staff due to walk out on Wednesday and Thursday are being told a better offer will mean layoffs and cuts in services – even though councils are sitting on billions of pounds in bank accounts.

UNISION’s North West Regional Secretary Frank Hont said town halls had accumulated unused funds through efficiency savings, and this should be used to settle the dispute:- “Local government workers cannot afford to take another pay cut – which is what 2.45% means.  Local government employers have £3 billion stashed away which they could use to make a better offer without having to go to the government with a begging bowl, without having to put up council tax and without making cuts to jobs and services.”

Mr Hont said workers would be walking out unless employers come up with an acceptable offer.

Almost 100,000 local government workers will be walking out across the North West in what will be one of the biggest strikes since the 1970s. Nationally, 600,000 UNISON members will be taking part.

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