Dehydration is a growing problem among elderly patients in hospital wards. Incidents such as those raised in the Francis Report highlight a problem that may not have been sufficiently addressed by current schemes. This improvement project aimed to identify the barriers faced by staff in improving oral hydration and to design and implement an effective solution. A 33 patient pilot study carried out at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Trust, United Kingdom, revealed that a significant proportion of patients were reported to be dehydrated on admission, with few having their hydration needs addressed. Staff cited time pressures and unclear task responsibility as the major barriers. The intervention was a Hydration Sticker education scheme. These stickers were placed on patient cups, notes and beside areas as a visual prompt for staff and family members to encourage the patient to drink. The intervention was implemented on the Acute Assessment Unit and Stroke ward through a poster campaign. The Hydration Stickers scheme resulted in a 6.5-fold increase in patients’ hydration needs being assessed and addressed. Coupled with the low implementation cost and ease of use, Hydration Stickers may be a simple, effective, transferable and sustainable solution to the problem of dehydration among elderly inpatients.
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