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Nottingham City Council launches RFID-based dementia service

Tunstall Group : 14 October, 2008  (Application Story)
Nottingham City Council has launched an innovative service that uses Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology to identify clothing belonging to individual residents, enhancing care provision for people with dementia, maintaining their identity and independence and promoting dignity in care.
The service is the first of its kind to be launched in the UK. RFID buttons from leading Telecare specialist Tunstall are being introduced to all 142 residents across five specialist dementia units across Nottingham, which includes residents who visit for short-term care.

Seeing another resident in their clothing can cause confusion and distress to people with dementia and their families. RFID technology will be used to securely store data relating to individual residents, to ensure all clothing can be identified and returned correctly.

The technology will enable health and social care professionals to address the risk of infections such as MRSA and other skin-related issues and allergies, which is a concern for staff when washing residents’ clothes together. The buttons store specific requirements, ensuring individual needs are met discreetly and efficiently, and at the same time freeing up more staff time to focus on care delivery.

Councillor Dave Liversidge, Nottingham City Council's spokesperson for Adult Services, Housing and Health said: “As we continue to develop services for residents in our Care Homes for Older People, managers are constantly looking to promote, improve and maintain standards around person-centred care.

“The RFID buttons will help us to ensure that we meet those standards by being able to care for residents’ clothes according to their individual wishes. It will also assist in ensuring that residents’ clothes are easily identified and with their rightful owner.”

Previously, residents in Nottingham had resorted to writing their names inside their clothing or sewing on name tags but both of these methods can damage the clothing and are undignified for older people.

The buttons have been designed to be easy to install but difficult to remove, so they cannot be taken off by accident or during washing. They can be programmed to store up to 200 characters, which can include the person’s name, unit, room number and any other information that they may wish to keep private, providing residents with a personalised level of care.

Programming and scanning the buttons is performed by a mobile hand-held reader, which allows staff to quickly identify an individual item of clothing, eliminating the cost of replacing unclaimed garments and allowing more time to focus on caring for residents. Each button is also reusable and can be easily reprogrammed to update a resident’s circumstances.

Residents that have been involved with the project have all been positive about the initiative, as it provides them with the reassurance that the clothing they receive will be their own. This helps to preserve their identity and plays an important role in reducing anxiety and stress.

The service also provides reassurance to families that their relative is receiving personalised care and that they are being treated as an individual. Once established, families will also be sent an update of the success of the technology and by regularly engaging with family members and carers, Nottingham City Council is committed to making them part of the care process.

The scheme coincides with the Dignity in Care Campaign, which was launched by the former Minister for Care Services, Ivan Lewis MP. The scheme aims to eliminate tolerance of indignity in health and social care services through raising awareness and inspiring people to take action.

As part of Nottingham’s commitment to dementia services, the information from this project will be shared across the council’s intranet website to create best practice in the region.
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