Process of implementing and delivering the Prevention of Delirium system of care: A mixed method preliminary study

Mary Godfrey, John Green, Jane Smith, Francine Cheater, Sharon K. Inouye, Keith Hurst, John Young

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Background: Delirium is a frequent complication of hospital admission among older people. Multicomponent interventions which can reduce incident delirium by ≈one-third are recommended by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence. Currently, a standardised delirium prevention system of care suitable for adoption in the UK National Health Service does not exist. The Prevention of Delirium (POD) system of care is a theory informed, multicomponent intervention and systematic implementation process which includes a role for hospital volunteers. We report POD implementation and delivery processes in NHS hospital wards, as part of a feasibility study. 

Methods: A comparative case study design and participatory, multi-method evaluation was performed with sequential six month preparatory and six month delivery stages. Six wards in five hospitals in Northern England were recruited. Methods included: facilitated workshops; observation of POD preparatory activities; qualitative interviews with staff; collection of ward organisational and patient profiles; and structured observation of staff workload. 

Results: POD implementation and delivery was fully accomplished in four wards. On these wards, implementation strategies informed by Normalization Process Theory operated synergistically and cumulatively. An interactive staff training programme on delirium and practices that might prevent it among those at risk, facilitated purposeful POD engagement. Observation of practice juxtaposed to action on delirium preventive interventions created tension for change, legitimating new ways of organising work around it. Establishing systems, processes and documentation to make POD workable in the ward setting, enhanced staff ownership. 'Negotiated experimentation' to involve staff in creating, appraising and modifying systems and practices, helped integrate the POD care system in ward routines. Activating these change mechanisms required a particular form of leadership: pro-active 'steer', and senior ward 'facilitator' to extend 'reach' to the staff group. Organisational discontinuity (i.e. ward re-location and re-modelling) disrupted and extended POD implementation; staff shortages adversely affected staff capacity to invest in POD. Findings resulted in the development of 'site readiness' criteria without which implementation of this complex intervention was unlikely to occur. 

Conclusions: POD implementation and delivery is feasible in NHS wards, but a necessary context for success is 'site readiness.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2019


  • Delirium prevention
  • Hospital care
  • Hospital volunteers
  • Implementation
  • Older people

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