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Would Specialist Units Improve Hospital Care for People with Parkinson’s?

Dr Rob Skelly

A successful research project funded by Parkinson’s UK has recently been carried out at the Royal Derby Hospital. The lead clinician, Dr Rob Skelly, who recently won the Consultant’s award in the Parkinson’s Academy Decade of Difference Awards, had this to say about the project: 

What inspired you to study this area of Parkinson’s research?

Many people with Parkinson’s Disease are dissatisfied with the care they receive in hospital. Sometimes staff aren’t familiar with Parkinson’s Disease, its complications or drug management. This can mean medication is delayed or not given, and this might reduce mobility and lead to longer stays in hospital.Parkinson’s UK drew attention to this problem with their “Get it on time” campaign. The need to improve hospital care was highlighted by people with Parkinson’s Disease at a meeting of the National Parkinson Foundation in 2010.

What were your goals for the project?

We wanted to set up a specialist in-patient unit, with specially trained staff, for people with Parkinson’s needing urgent admission to hospital. The aim of this research was to find out if a Specialist Parkinson’s Disease Unit (SPDU) could help to ensure people with Parkinson’s get their medication on time, improve their experience in hospital, and reduce their length of stay.

What have you found?

Before setting up the unit we gathered information from general wards which we compared to our findings from the specialist unit. We found that:

  1. Less Parkinson’s medication was missed – 13% on the SPDU and 20% on general wards.

  2. More medication was given on time - 64% of medication was given within 30 minutes and 91% within an hour on the SPDU compared to 50% given within 30 minutes and 79% given within an hour on general wards.

  3. People with Parkinson’s and carers were more satisfied with the care they received and average length of stay fell from 13 to 9 days.

What are the next steps?

Although our pilot study is promising, evidence from a bigger randomised trial is needed to convince NHS commissioners that SPDUs should be adopted by the NHS. We are planning a larger, multi centre trial which will also include cost-effectiveness analysis.

You can access the full publication at  http://www.prd-journal.com/article/S1353-8020(14)00337-X/abstract