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A digital coconut shy contest organised at Tewkesbury Hospital has won staff there a bronze medal for group activities in a national scheme.

Occupational Therapy Assistant April Atherton entered the RITA awards, run by My Improvement Network. They are the creators of the Reminiscence Interactive Therapy Activities (RITA) device, a touchscreen unit designed to help entertain and stimulate people with a memory impairment.

April set it up in the hospital day room as a way of getting patients to socialise and have fun as well as participating in lunch club.

She said: “I used RITA with three patients, two of whom had a diagnosis of dementia. They played the coconut shy game and got quite competitive – it was good for hand-eye co-ordination and great to see them enjoying themselves! That’s the case study I used for the award, but I’m using it three or four times a week.

“We’ve played penalty shoot-outs, it will play old films and also video and clips and news from the 60s and 70s – I showed a patient a short clip with old dresses and hats and someone baking a cake – those kinds of clips are great as they give people options for conversation.”

The award nomination happened almost by accident as the two RITA units at the hospital weren’t working properly. During the process to get them up and running again April contacted the manufacturer.

“During that conversation they mentioned there was training available via Teams, and it went on from there,” she added.

“When I found out we’d been shortlisted, that was exciting, but I still thought we wouldn’t get anywhere – so I was very happy when we got a bronze. In 2022 we’re going for silver!”

Uses for RITA continue to be discovered and used with pig-racing (!) and bingo being added to the portfolio.

April said: “I think it’s been a great thing to have, especially during Covid when we can only have four people in the day room. You can see the change in people and their enjoyment.

“I just found karaoke on there, so that might be next – I like some Elvis!”

Matron Julie Ellery said: “I’m always so proud to see colleagues at the hospital taking the initiative to improve the experience of patients. Congratulations to April – and Suzie Guilding – for their work with RITA, and I look forward to the silver… or gold… next year!”

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