Monday, 9 April 2018


Norrms Mc Namara, founder of the Global Purple Angel Dementia awareness campaign, tells us about his work to improve hospital care for people living with dementia. 

I have been a HUGE fan of the NHS and a lifelong supporter of what they do and how hard they work, but my relationship with Torbay hospital began 4 years before I was diagnosed with dementia. Fourteen years ago I became quite ill and was diagnosed with Left ventricle cardiomyopathy or heart failure as it is most commonly known. In the following 18 months, I was admitted six times, and twice my wife was sent home to make arrangements because I was so poorly. The months and months that followed were hard but thanks to the dedication of the consultants and modern medicine, I was "Brought back from the brink". Since then I have "managed " my heart failure, but I did think at the time that if ever I had a chance to repay them for all they had done for me and my family, I would do so in a heartbeat.

Sadly, a few years later I was diagnosed with dementia, but ironically, after finding out there was very little set up for those aged 50 with dementia, I visited the very same hospital to see what it was like for someone my age and found there were few facilities or plans in place for anybody my age, and so my quest began.

Yes it is sad that it took a dementia diagnosis to kick start something that we have achieved at Torbay Hospital, and indeed around the world, but HEY that's the hand we were dealt at the time and we will continue to help all others who ask us, in the hope we can help more people in the future.

Here at Torbay Hospital, we are on the verge of announcing to the UK, and indeed, the world, a WORLD FIRST. Shortly we shall be announcing that Torbay Acute hospital in Torquay, Devon, UK, with over 6,500 employees, will become the worlds first "Global Purple Angel" Dementia aware Hospital. This is how we have done it, and there is no reason whatsoever, others can’t follow suit.

Up to now, over 90% of ALL the 6,500+staff who work there from the cleaners to the CEO have undergone Purple Angel awareness training, which includes a video made by the RCN, which includes me and Angela Rippon. They have also read information booklets, answered questions and met with the dementia lead of the hospital many times to discuss dementia awareness and been invited to presentations and conferences. This has not, as you can imagine, happened overnight. In fact, it has taken us THREE years to get to this point, but such a lot of hard work from the Dementia specialist matrons, many meetings with the Board of the hospital itself, and keeping open communications at every stage between the hospital and ourselves has accumulated to make this now almost possible, we just want to dot the I`s and cross the T`s before we go publicly announce this.

So what’s changed since?

What has changed is that the staff are now more aware of different types of dementia, and are more empathetic to those in their care with dementia, their loved ones and carers. Also, the feedback from the public has been tremendous and the best we had was about the simplest things we did. Once a ward and all its staff had completed the awareness training, a
Purple Angel emblem was fitted to the doors of the ward for all to see. After a while, we started to hear that members of the public felt more reassured about their loved ones care because the wards were becoming Dementia aware wards and by seeing the Purple Angel awareness sign they knew the staff had taken the time and the trouble, out of their very busy days to learn more about this awful disease to help them and others. EVERY WARD in Torbay Hospital, and it has many, as you can imagine, with 6,500 staff, now shows and promotes the Purple Angel symbol on its doors. It is all about working together.

On the patient's notes within the hospital, if a person has a diagnosis of dementia we print the logo of the Alzheimer’s Association forget-me-not, so that people can see both logos, signifying that both dementia organisations are working side by side, as it should be.

Three years ago, I asked to meet the Board of Torbay Hospital and talk to them face to face about how we might work together and improve practices for those with dementia. I had no demands or anything like that, I just wanted to hear from them what they were doing and "suggest" three proposals I had for them:

1. To make Torbay General Hospital the first Acute hospital in the world to become Dementia aware.

2. To have a campaign within the hospital to encourage nurses and carers to work together and sit and chat, share experiences and help each other better understand their daily activities, I called this BUILDING BRIDGES

3. To have the purple Angel logo printed on patients with a diagnosis of dementia wristbands so that if they go ‘wandering’ they can be easily identified and helped.

I am so happy to say at this point in time, with the help of the Board of Directors of Torbay hospital, the CEO, and Director of nursing, two-out-of the three proposals have been completed and we have a meeting in early February 2018 regarding the third.

So you see, you can keep on chipping away at improving patients experiences in our hospitals, and believe me there is nothing wrong with that, or you can ask lots of people to come together, propose things that will not cost the earth or the Trust money. Keep your plans simple, but effective (The Purple Angel way), don't be demanding, don't drown in the F WORD (FUNDING that is). Sometimes it doesn't need to cost the earth to make the greatest changes. If you are passionate about what you do and show others you are, they also will be passionate. If you believe in what you do, others too will believe in it, and if you throw that very small pebble into a pond and watch the ripples? Well, the rest, as they say, is history:


If you want to know more about what we do, or about what we have achieved around the world, and at this hospital, we can provide links to the NHS video, and also booklets that are free to download. please Norrms via his email or through the website.

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