Patients at the Royal Free Hospital (RFH) will have the best beds in the house thanks to a refurbishment designed to improve the care of dementia patients.

8 West ward at the RFH has been decorated to transport patients and visitors to the seaside, and now includes a theatre space for live performances by actors, musicians and poets.

The seaside theme was inspired by feedback from patients and relatives on the ward, and co-designed by Danielle Wilde, dementia lead, Chito Gabutin, 8 West ward manager and the multi-disciplinary team.

Following months of hard work to bring the idea to life, the new look was met with a tremendous reception from patients, staff and volunteers at its grand unveiling. 

The event was held in ‘The Royal Free Theatre’ – a new day room on the ward. 

Previously a patient bay, the area has been converted into theatre space, complete with a red-curtain backdrop. The Royal Free Theatre will be used to provide patients with a weekly programme of activities while they are in hospital – it will also set the stage for the future of dementia care at the Royal Free London, where art and engagement will be a key focus.

Danielle Wilde, said: “This ward marks the first step in our journey towards integrating the arts into routine dementia care.”

Showcasing how the space will be used, patients and staff were treated to a live musical performance during the opening by 40’s swing trio, The Polka Dots. 

Fritzie Cencil, Danielle Wilde and Chito Gabutin with 40's swing trio, The Polka Dots

Michelle Chody and Allison Kelleher are therapists on 8 West ward. Michelle said: “It was fantastic to see all the patients singing along with the music and enjoying themselves. This will be a great place we can bring our patients to.”

Allison added: “The opening ceremony was a great opportunity to showcase the day room, and everything that we will be doing in this space.”

The refurbishment, which was generously funded by the Royal Free Charity, extends into the corridor areas.

Images of iconic British seaside towns line one side of the ward; beach huts signpost patient rooms and bays; and along another corridor, a reminiscent boardwalk mural has been created complete with an ice-cream van and gift shop.

The imagery on the walls will be used to stimulate conversations and help patients, particularly those with dementia, to feel more relaxed during their stay on a busy acute hospital ward.

The work on 8 West ward builds on the trust’s commitment to deliver world-class dementia care and follows the refurbishment of 10 North ward at the Royal Free Hospital, Larch ward at Barnet Hospital and the dementia-therapy gardens at Chase Farm Hospital.

For images from the opening event, please visit our gallery.