Care home hydration project cuts hospital admissions

Images: Victoria Wicks presenting a stand promoting the hydration project at a care home event, and images of care home staff dressed up as part of their own care home hydration initiatives
Victoria Wicks promoting the hydration project at a stand at the Torbay and South Devon EHCH care home event. Care home hydration champions organise innovative and entertaining activities to promote the importance of good hydration.

Published: 4 April 2023

Community dietitians in Torbay and South Devon are working across residential and nursing homes to help prevent injuries and illnesses linked to dehydration.

The hydration project, run by community dietitians at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, aims to highlight the importance of good hydration, advising care staff on how best to support residents to meet their fluid requirements.

Those in care are often more likely to experience falls or illnesses such as urinary tract infections as a direct result of dehydration. Commonly, many older people don’t feel thirsty and need extra support to stay hydrated.

Becoming dehydrated can lead to dizziness and feeling light-headed, which could cause a fall. Dehydration can also lead to constipation and a higher risk of developing pressure sores.

Torbay and South Devon’s community dietitians develop a hydration action plan with each home, supporting homes to implement a personalised approach to good hydration with their residents. They provide training and support to care home staff to ensure residents are hydrated.

The care homes appoint ‘hydration champions’ who receive advanced hydration training and are able to implement initiatives and ideas to promote good hydration.

Since the project began, there has been a reduction in admissions to hospitals from project homes in the local area for conditions associated with dehydration. Between May 2021 and November 2022, the number of falls requiring hospital admission fell by 63% and incidences of urinary tract infections requiring antibiotics were reduced by 18.5%.

The project was recently used as a national case study promoting good practice by NHS England Community Health Services, and has also been highlighted as part of the Enhanced Health in Care Homes (EHCH) framework programme refresh.

Victoria Wicks, Specialist Clinical Community Dietitian at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The hydration project has been a great success. It has been wonderful to be able to provide specialist advice and support to care staff who work so hard to promote good hydration.’’

“Our key message is to always make hydration fun! Providing residents with choice and variety has a positive impact on hydration status and quality of life. By working with the care homes on an individual basis, we can support them to explore any barriers they may face around hydration and provide recommendations suitable and appropriate for their residents.’’

“It has been brilliant to receive high levels of engagement from passionate and enthusiastic members of the team at each home and to see the advice and recommendations we have provided implemented into practice, with such positive results.”

Edith Nortje, Registered Manager at Briarcroft Care Home, said ‘’We are so proud to be a part of the hydration project, it has really impacted on the team and residents. We managed to keep all of our clients hydrated and well during the summer heatwave. Our champions have even managed to get the staff to drink more! Thanks for all your input into making us a very hydrated home.”

If you work in a residential or care home in Torbay and South Devon and would like to get involved with the programme, please contact Victoria Wicks, Hydration Project Lead Dietitian, at