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Draconian restrictions on visiting hours are cruel to patients with dementia

Join John’s Campaign and help ensure people with dementia admitted to hospital have unrestricted access to their loved ones, says the RCN’s Amanda Cheesley 
nicci

Join Johns Campaign and help ensure people with dementia admitted to hospital have unrestricted access to their loved ones, says the RCNs Amanda Cheesley.

Almost 3 years ago, I had a request to meet two women who wanted to talk to me about Johns Campaign. I had never heard of them or the campaign, and spent a revelatory hour with Nicci Gerrard and Julia Jones hearing about why they started it and what they hoped to achieve.

These two extraordinary women have dedicated the past 2 years to informing, lobbying, persuading and encouraging hospitals across the UK to adopt carer-friendly policies for people with dementia who are in hospital, enabling them to have the people they

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Join John’s Campaign and help ensure people with dementia admitted to hospital have unrestricted access to their loved ones, says the RCN’s Amanda Cheesley. 


Nicci Gerrard with her father John, who felt abandoned after
his family were prevented from visiting him in hospital. 

Almost 3 years ago, I had a request to meet two women who wanted to talk to me about John’s Campaign. I had never heard of them or the campaign, and spent a revelatory hour with Nicci Gerrard and Julia Jones hearing about why they started it and what they hoped to achieve. 

These two extraordinary women have dedicated the past 2 years to informing, lobbying, persuading and encouraging hospitals across the UK to adopt carer-friendly policies for people with dementia who are in hospital, enabling them to have the people they love with them while in unfamiliar surroundings. 

The story starts with Ms Gerrard’s father, John Gerrard, who was living with dementia. In February 2014, he was admitted to hospital with leg ulcers.

Raising awareness 

Five weeks later he was discharged, a broken version of his former self. He was incontinent, immobile, unable to sit or stand and unable to recognise the people he loved. 

His family had not been allowed to visit him in hospital because of an infection outbreak, leaving him feeling frightened and alone. He died later that year.  

Many hospitals still have draconian visiting hours that ignore the needs of sick and frightened people and their loved ones. They do not consider the positive effect family and friends can have on a person’s recovery. 

Ms Jones’ mother also has dementia. After discussing the distressing experience of her father’s hospital stay with Ms Gerrard, they decided to raise awareness of the importance of carers in supporting people with dementia when in hospital, and John’s Campaign was born.

Individual need

The campaign calls for hospitals and other care settings to have a policy welcoming family carers, or the people most important to the person with dementia, outside stated visiting times and according to individual need. 

Not difficult, you would think. It is common sense when you consider the robust evidence showing that with access to family and friends, the person with dementia stays in hospital for less time and is less distressed. 

Yet many hospitals still cite dubious reasons for not welcoming family members, including infection risks, interrupting peoples’ meals or rest, interfering with the running of the ward and challenging hospital policy. 

This is ridiculous, thoughtless and, in some cases, downright cruel. Family members are made to feel like imposters and seen as difficult and obstructive, which causes further distress and conflict. 

Campaign conference 

Two years of tireless travel, talking, banging on doors and encouraging people with dementia and their loved ones to speak up, culminated with a John’s Campaign conference on 12 October, hosted by Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. 

Speakers included Alzheimers UK chief executive Jeremy Hughes and England’s chief nursing officer Jane Cummings, who said the campaign should be the seventh ‘C’.

Delegates also heard from people living with dementia and about the experiences of those affected by the condition, some of which were horrific. People who had experienced good care also spoke at the conference.

Some enlightened hospitals, wards and departments have already implemented policies in line with the ethos of John’s campaign, such as carer’s passports

Hundreds sign up

They are living proof that doing the right thing is not only possible, it needn't be difficult. 

So far, 400 hospitals – or wards or departments in hospitals – have signed up to the campaign. If you haven’t yet done so, I urge you to join John’s Campaign now.

And if it is already happening where you work, shout about it from the rooftops and encourage others to do the same. 

To sign up to John’s Campaign visit the website or email Nicci Gerrard (nicci.gerrard@icloud.com) or Julia Jones (julia-jones@talk21.com) explaining in 50 words how your organisation welcomes carers. 


About the author 

Amanda Cheesley is RCN professional lead for long-term conditions and end of life care

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