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Health boss feels what it's like to be frail

Frailty Neil Jo and Rachel

11:00am 17th February 2017

Managers at Buckinghamsire's NHS Trust have been finding out what it feels like to be old and frail.

They've been using specialist training kit to put on extra strain on their movement and blur their vision.

They've been doing this to see how improve buildings for patients and visitors with these issues.

To begin with, a heavy vest was given to Chief Exec Neil Dardis to wear tightly across his chest to simulate how it might feel for a patient with reduced cardiac function and how that might also affect his gait.

He was also given special glasses to reduce his vision and headphones to limit his hearing.

Weights were also placed on his ankles to reduce mobility.

Jo Birrell, nurse consultant for older people, then took Neil around the hospital to experience things that people with frailty have to on a daily basis, this included walking along the long corridors, trying to read signage and waiting in Accident and Emergency on a very busy day seeing the Trust from wheelchair height was another important insight.

Jo explained:

"We use this training to gain feedback for how we can improve things for both patients and visitors with frailty.

"Experiencing this helps raise staff awareness and their understanding of how frightening it can be in an unfamiliar environment.

"We need to think how we can improve care and what changes could help with this."

Care - Elderly

Joining Neil for the training earlier this month (February), were Carolyn Morrice, chief nurse and Rachel Devonshire, a non-executive director at the Trust.

The experience was also shared with a team from South Central Ambulance Service.

After experiencing A&E and outpatients the group were taken to ward 8 where they were given different kit which mimicked having arthritis in the hand and walking issues.

Again they were given glasses and ear plugs and then asked to make their way through the corridors and ward as well as doing other tasks like writing with a simulated tremor.

Stoke Mandeville Hospital - Mandeville Wing

At the end of the session Carolyn said:

"This has been more important than a week of training and powerpoint presentations.

"It has been incredibly useful and now provokes a lot of questions as to how we can help people that have the issues we have experienced today."

It is hoped in the future the training will also be shared with the police and fire service to enable them to also better understand the needs of people who are more frail and the kit will also be available for short training sessions within clinical teams within BHT.

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