A student in Nottingham creates innovative bags to help elderly patients in hospital

A student in Nottingham has come up with a simple and effective way to help dementia patients feel more comfortable during a stay in hospital.

Clare Branson, a student studying Decorative Arts at Nottingham Trent University (NTU), has created soft fabric retro handbags and wallets, giving elderly patients somewhere to put their personal belongings while in hospital.

Jo Mcaulay, an Occupational Therapist at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH), attended the Nottingham Trent University (NTU) Fusion Arts event last year, and gave a talk about the power of art therapy in hospitals.

Clare was inspired by Jo’s talk and decided to get involved in a project to create useful resources for patients on the Healthcare of Older Person (HCOP) wards at NUH.

Jo Mcaulay said: “Often patients come in with a carrier bag of personal items such as keys, glasses or tissues. We came up with the idea of creating soft handbags give patients something personal, reusable and easy to access.”

The bags are practical and are made from soft washable fabric, with an easy-open Velcro seal. There is also space on the front of the bag where staff can add a patient’s name to personalise each item.

Clare, who’s in her final year at NTU said: “I felt inspired after speaking with Jo and I really wanted to get involved and help patients in hospital to create something that was both functional and friendly.”

Clare’s vision for the handbag design came from vintage railway posters and retro patchwork fabrics.

She said: “For one of the designs I chose pictures which used lots of pink and yellow colours. I then started creating collages and then digitally printed this design onto the fabric,  cutting it out to shape and make the bags.”

Clare has shared the sewing pattern for the bags with a local sewing group, who will continue to create the fabric bags for patients in Nottingham based on her design.

Clare added: “I have really enjoyed being involved in this project. Jo organised it so that I could meet with patients at an art therapy session at the hospital and get their feedback and thoughts, to help shape the design and functionality of the handbags.  It has been great to be able to work on something that has a benefit to patients in a real and immediate way.”

Jo added: “It’s been great to work with Clare who has been able to take this very vague brief and, from this, Clare has been able to design this very personalised bag for patients. I have been able to look at infection control, single-person use and dexterity issues and Clare was able to create something beautiful from this. It’s been great to work with people from different backgrounds with a different vision and take on things to make something practical for our patients.”