National Institute for Health Research
Collaboration for Leadership in
Applied Health Research and Care –

Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire
University of Nottingham

'Creating a Scene'...dementia play showcases new research

Social scientists at The University of Nottingham have come up with a novel way of publicising new research into the role of unqualified healthcare assistants in the hospital care of people with dementia.

They have commissioned a new play by Nottingham-based theatre company ‘Meeting Ground’ as a way of making their findings much more accessible to a wide range of people, within the healthcare sector and beyond.

The play commissioned by the researchers is called ‘Inside Out of Mind’. It’s been written by actor/playwright Tanya Myers and is directed by Stephen Lowe using a cast of professional actors including the leading film and television actor Maurice Roeves. It focuses on seven patients and their carers and in it, Tanya Myers draws on her personal experiences of dementia, which affected her mother-in-law. She has also used the highly detailed and extensive field notes made by the team of social scientists from the University, led by Professor of mental health and social care, Justine Schneider.

Professor Schneider said: “We wanted Tanya to use our research and its extensive field notes taken in dementia wards as a ‘seed’ to inspire a play about dementia and the caring environment. Our academic study set out to examine the role and function of healthcare assistants (HCAs) who are traditionally low-paid with little or no formal training. The aim was to understand their job, what motivates them and what makes a good carer in relation to the modern ‘ideal’ of ‘person-centred’ dementia care. I think Tanya has managed to create a remarkable and original piece of theatre with genuine echoes of our observations in every character and scene.”

The University research, originally funded by the National Institute for Health Research Service Delivery and Organisation programme, took the form of ‘participant observation’ by three researchers who worked for four months as part-time, supernumerary HCAs in three dementia care wards within one mental health Trust. Regular staff were aware of the research being carried out and many spoke directly about their role to the researchers, who also conducted individual interviews with staff and focus groups with family carers of people with dementia, as well as ‘mapping’ techniques which analysed the logistics of dementia care on the ward.

The research found that health care assistants are in reality skilled workers who make a distinctive contribution to the care experienced by patients with dementia and whose capabilities directly affect the quality of that care. This has implications for acute, as well as specialist, hospital provision and may also be applicable to residential and nursing home settings where health care assistants make up the vast majority of staff.

The research also identified nine areas which it recommends should be examined by the NHS in re-evaluating the role of health care assistants in dementia care in the UK. The issues raised have important implications for managers of HCAs for the planning and development of the workforce, and for the implementation of the NHS Constitution staff pledges.

‘Inside Out of Mind’ by Tanya Myers will be the focus of a new Managed Innovation Network in the University’s Institute of Mental Health. The Network aims to promote the play’s future production as part of the dissemination of the research. The theatre workshop has been funded by the Institute as well as the Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust and Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care - Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire (CLAHRC-NDL).

This is an abridged version of the original press release. View the full University of Nottingham press release here.

Posted on Wednesday 29th February 2012

Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care - Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire


Institute of Mental Health
University of Nottingham Innovation Park
Triumph Road

Telephone: 0115 823 1253