• Date awarded: January 2022
  • Awarded value: £23,750
  • Fund: Fife Health Board Endowment Fund
  • Location: Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy & Cameron Hospital, Leven
A digital tablet featuring interactive software called RITA, which stands for Reminiscence/Rehabilitation & Interactive Therapy Activities, being used by patient and member of nursing staff.

Following support from Fife Health Charity, innovative software technology is helping to assist in the care of NHS Fife dementia patients.

RITA stands for Reminiscence/Rehabilitation & Interactive Therapy Activities and is an all-in-one touch screen system offering digital reminiscence therapy. A relatively new tool in the fields of nursing and healthcare, RITA utilises user-friendly interactive screens and tablets to blend entertainment with therapy. Patients experiencing memory loss or impairment in recalling and sharing events from their past are able to reconnect and engage with aspects of their life and times by listening to music, watching news reports of significant historical events, hearing famous speeches, playing games, taking part in karaoke and watching films.

Utilised daily, RITA is used by staff, patients and relatives together or by patients individually. A form of cognitive therapy, the software is designed to help to calm, stimulate and reduce anxiety in patients with dementia during their stay on the ward and promote valuable interaction between the patient and those caring for them.

As Helen Skinner, Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Nurse Consultant with NHS Fife, explains: “One of the challenges that staff face on the wards is patients becoming distressed. Patients with dementia finding themselves in a strange environment can become very distracted and distressed when experiencing different people, noises, smells, even all the hustle and bustle of the ward. So, if we can provide some kind of meaningful activity, some interaction for the patients, it can help prevent stress building up."

The sophisticated system features a large, TV sized monitor which is mounted on a trolley and hand-held tablets. Following the successful introduction of the system on a trial basis in Ward 32 at the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, Fife Health Charity has funded additional systems for use in other wards in the hospital and also at Cameron Hospital in Leven. 

"As a medicine of the elderly ward with a high number of patients who have dementia and delirium, we knew that RITA could be used with most of our patients," says Amy Fox, Senior Charge Nurse at the Victoria Hospital.

"Following staff training, we registered over 1000 hours in the first few months, proving that this piece of equipment was getting utilised regularly every day. The staff and patents all enjoyed the different games and apps available on RITA and it definitely helped distract and settle patients with dementia and delirium who otherwise would become agitated.

"RITA is now a part of the ward and never sits unused, helping nursing staff in caring for our patients."

The Difference Our Funding is Making

Since the introduction of RITA in the original pilot scheme, the interaction it offers plus the tailored stimulation it brings have brought a range of benefits and positive outcomes, with thousands of hours of use being reported by NHS Fife staff. 

In addition to improving patient’s mood and creating a sense of wellbeing, using RITA helps patients, staff and family members to communicate more effectively, reducing agitation and combating social isolation.

Favourite songs, films and other media can be saved for the patient to access on demand at the touch of the screen, while sharing the digital experience helps reconnect relatives with their loved one in a way that is accessible and fun.

"RITA has become an essential piece of kit on the ward. The feedback from patients, staff and relatives has only been positive. We have used it to reduce stress and distress in the patient group within the ward and to help patients who have mental health issues and learning disabilities. It has been especially useful in helping patients feel less isolated."

Karen Cafferky, Senior Charge Nurse, Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy.