Karen handles a bright idea for dementia patients

Posted on in Awards, Services, Staff

While working in the cardiac catheter laboratories at The James Cook University Hospital, sister Karen Ainsworth though of an idea that would be of comfort to patients, particularly those who suffered from dementia, during pacemaker procedures.

Karen Ainsworth Karen could see from some patients’ reactions that the laboratories – with all the medical equipment around when the procedures take place – can be a little daunting and she also identified that when they lay on the operating table, they had nothing to hold on to.

So she developed handles to hold, which have now been made and are in use in the labs of the Middlesbrough hospital. They were also ‘highly commended’ at the NHS Innovations ‘Bright Ideas in Health Awards’, winning £1,000 to help with further development and production costs.

Karen, from Linthorpe, said: “I spoke with the dementia care team as it was their insight that identified how patients with dementia could feel insecure on the narrow, movable, table. I then developed the hand grips idea with Tony Alton from medical physics and his colleagues Ian Boddy and Stuart Marsden.

“We worked out what would work for patients and practically around lab equipment. The handles needed to be something that can slide under the mattress without damaging any x-ray equipment; the x-rays need to be able to see through them and they had to be easily manoeuvrable and easy to keep clean.”

“The earliest idea for the prototype had the handles at a rigid 90 degrees but on discussion we decided the handles would be more comfortable if they were angled so a ball and socket was introduced to help us achieve this.

“We found staff and patients liked that fact that the latest prototype could angle to suit individual patients needs so we kept this feature. We have had two sets made so far and the feedback from staff and patients has been amazing.”

Karen initially drafted up the idea to assist dementia patients, simply for a sense of security while on the operating table, but discovered all patients find it a great benefit.

Karen, who is to begin work in the dementia team shortly, added: “Some say ‘I held onto it for you’, others said ‘I jiggled it to distract myself.’ One said ‘when I felt a little pain, I gripped it so tight it stopped me swearing at the doctor!”

“Although initially I looked at is being used in cardiology, it could easily be used in fields such as vascular radiology or neuroradiology. It was fantastic to be recognised at the awards but it’s been a real collaborative effort.

“Never in a million years did I think I’d ever get to this stage and it’s thanks to the support from my colleagues including the innovation scouts at the trust.”