A Clipstone care home which used colourful therapeutic artwork to support people suffering from severe dementia has been forced to remove it from the walls due to fire service red tape.
The Clipstone Hall Residential Care Home was one of the first homes in the country to use colourful therapeutic art in its corridors as a way of inspiring, calming and motivating residents with end-stage Alzheimer’s.
But following a visit from Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue, staff have been forced to take the art down after an inspector ruled it was a fire risk.
Staff at the home, in Mansfield Road, worked with the Alzheimer’s Society to pioneer the revolutionary new treatment, following a campaign from relatives.
Employees told Chad the formerly bright and cheerful atmosphere at the home now “feels more like a prison” and is distressing residents.
Nottinghamshire fire service is now being called upon to have a rethink, over claims that the inspector concerned has been too pedantic in his application of the regulations.
Care home manager Linda Britain told Chad that even after the art was treated with powerful fire-resistant spray, the service still refused to back down.
“The art work has been on the walls for the last four years or so and there’s never been any problem before when they have come out to do inspections,” Linda said.
“Then this particular fire officer came in and said that it was a risk and that he didn’t like it - it was like he was applying the rules in a really black and white manner.
“He kept coming back and eventually he brought an enforcement order which gave us 28 days to comply, so we had to take it all down because if we didn’t they would have taken us to court.
“At the end of the day we are a home, not an institution or a hospital but a home, and now it feels more like a prison.”
The artwork was used as a way of helping dementia sufferers to reconnect with their memories in the final stages of the illness, as well as a means of de-escalating patients when they become upset or frustrated.
Now residents are wandering the corridors with nothing to focus on, while others have become severely distressed with some refusing to eat, Linda said.
Joyce Banbury (62), from Forest Town, visited her 92-year-old mother Annie Addis at the home until she died a year ago, and now volunteers at Clipstone Hall.
Joyce, who campaigned for more colour in shared areas when her mother first moved into the home, said: “The place looks absolutely awful now.
“What nobody has taken into consideration is that the people who go into these places are going in there to die and if their last few months can be made a little happier then that should be the priority.
“We had a meeting with the fire inspector last week and he really wouldn’t listen - it just makes you think that he has got it in for us for some reason.”
If the regulations were applied in the same blanket manner to other buildings, hotels would be forced to take down art from corridors and schools would have to remove displays, Joyce added.
Sherwood MP Mark spencer said he has now written to Nottinghamshire’s chief fire officer, asking him to over-rule the decision.
He said: “I went to look around the home quite recently and one of the things they are really proud of is the artwork on the walls.
“It’s not just that it looks nice, it’s really important for the residents - it’s the familiarity of the images that are genuinely beneficial.
“What we have is an overly enthusiastic member of staff at Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue who hasn’t got the balance right.
“I have written to the chief fire officer to see if we can have a rethink with the introduction of a bit of common sense, and I am hopeful that they will see reason.”
Alison Pitt, dementia support manager for the Alzheimer’s Society in Nottinghamshire said reminiscence therapy and sensory items can be valuable tools in creating a dementia friendly care home.
She said: “Using sights and sounds from the past to trigger conversations can help people with dementia to access older memories, and can ultimately improve the lives of people with the condition. Occasionally a person who hasn’t spoken in a long time will suddenly recall something with such clarity that it can be a truly special moment.
“It is vital that we see the person behind the dementia and create environments which help residents engage with each other and with staff.
“Research has shown that in some care homes, residents spend as little as two minutes every six hours socially interacting with other people. At the same time, we do appreciate that the safety of residents must be the number one priority and that any such tools need to work within health and safety guidelines.”
Vic McMillen, who heads Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue’s fire protection team, said: “All business owners have a legal obligation to ensure their premises, and all those who use them, are protected from fire.
“The role of our fire protection officers is to ensure the relevant legislation is adhered to and that the safety of staff, customers and members of the public is not compromised. When this does happen, the service has a duty to carry out the relevant enforcement action.
“Guidance has been issued to ensure that care homes are able to provide the appropriate surroundings for their clients while meeting fire regulations. The guidance acknowledges that care homes need to review how they achieve this.
“We are happy to work with any business owner to help them interpret the current guidance so they can continue providing stimulating and comfortable surroundings without comprising people’s safety.”
RED TAPE: Main picture (from left) deputy manager Donna Varet, care assistant Joanne Birtley and manager Linda Britain in the empty corridors. The home before the artwork was taken down, and Sherwood MP Mark Spencer.