“Very good idea to combine museum facilities with the health care setting. It’s nice to know other institutions out there care about our patients’ experiences in the hospital.”
Hospital nurse


House of memories picHouse of Memories is a pioneering project making a real difference to people living with dementia, their carers, families and communities. In line with the National Dementia Strategy and the Prime Minister’s subsequent Challenge on Dementia 2012, House of Memories was developed by National Museums Liverpool and has now spread UK wide.

It is a training programme which provides skills and knowledge to help improve the quality of life for people living with dementia, plus a My House of Memories app, with images, videos and audio to stir memories and stimulate conversations.

Funded by the Department of Health and Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group, and developed by National Museums Liverpool, this innovative dementia awareness training programme was originally developed for health and social care staff, but has been expanded for family carers. It uses the power of museum objects to help build positive communication between carers and people living with dementia.

The Innovation Agency was a supporter from the outset, collaborating through an Innovate Dementia programme at Liverpool John Moores University‘s Living Lab. The AHSN’s role has been to help spread the programme across the country. It was developed by Liverpool SME Damibu.

The app provides access to hundreds of fantastic social history objects from museum collections. The app is designed to be intuitive, easy to use, and accessible using multi-media and multi-sensory approaches to stimulate conversation and interactions between people living with dementia and their carers. User involvement is key to the success of the project, and was a feature from the initial scoping phase, to co-design and user testing.

Challenge/ problem identified

Dementia is a growing challenge. As the population ages and people live for longer, it has become one of the most important health and care issues facing the world. In England it is estimated that around 676,000 people have dementia. In the whole of the UK, the number of people with dementia is estimated at 850,000.

Dementia mainly affects older people, and after the age of 65, the likelihood of developing dementia roughly doubles every five years. However, for some dementia can develop earlier, presenting different issues for the person affected, their carer and their family.

There are around 540,000 carers of people with dementia in England. It is estimated that one in three people will care for a person with dementia in their lifetime. Half of them are employed and it’s thought that some 66,000 people have already cut their working hours to care for a family member, whilst 50,000 people have left work altogether.

There is a considerable economic cost associated with the disease estimated at £23 billion a year, which is predicted to triple by 2040. This is more than the cost of cancer, heart disease and stroke.

(NHS England website)

Actions taken

The Innovation Agency has helped to spread the House of Memories programme across the North West Coast and nationally. There have been presentations by senior staff about House of Memories at national and regional health and innovation conferences; and the AHSN has been an active participant in museum events, including making a presentation at the Museums Association annual conference in Glasgow in 2016 – strengthening links between arts and health networks.

The Innovation Agency is a member of the programme’s steering group, overseeing the programme roll-out along with partner organisations, including Health Education England North West who supported the Tier 2 train the trainer model with North West acute care and community health partners; and academics.

A particular achievement for the Innovation Agency was in introducing House of Memories to stakeholders in Lancashire which led to its adoption as part of the area’s NHS test bed. This arose out of a funding application involving partners in Lancashire which was unsuccessful – but led to the partners including the House of Memories in their Test Bed bid.

House of Memories features on the AHSN’s online sharing platform, the Innovation Exchange; and is one of the products in the Innovation Agency’s iBag – used to ‘show and tell’ about latest innovations.

House of MemoriesImpacts/ outcomes

As of June 2017, in the three years since the app’s launch there have been 11,437 downloads; 33,810 sessions have taken place; 52,395 activities within the app; and 223,460 views of objects in the app. Museum partners in the North West, North East, Midlands, Greater Manchester and the South East have added digital museum content to the app. The app is downloaded in the UK and globally.

Museum partners in the North West, North East, Midlands, Greater Manchester and the South East have added digital museum content to the app. The app is downloaded in the UK and globally.

In June 2017 11,000 participants had attended the training days from the North West, North East, Midlands and the South East.

Independent evaluations have shown that key learning outcomes and impact indicators include:

  • Increased awareness and understanding of dementia
  • Skills development including listening, communication and empathy
  • Improved capacity for individual and collective critical, reflective care practice
  • Confidence in trying new approaches to dementia care
  • Improved knowledge, skills and access in relation to memory activities
  • Appreciation of creative and interactive training approach.

In addition, an analysis of social value and return on investment has been undertaken by the Institute of Cultural Capital and this has found to be £1: £8.66 (up to one year) and £1: £44.68 (up to eight years). This has been estimated through a combination of qualitative, quantitative and financial information. It is derived from dividing the impact value (total value input) by the value of the investment (all outgoing costs to run the project). This is based on Government and NHS calculations such as the cost of a confidence-building course, value of improved standards of dementia care to an organisation, cost of a one day communication course and cost of a saved GP appointment.

Evaluations in 2013, 2014, and 2016 have shown that the House of Memories has had a profound impact on the culture of care. Results include:

  • A demonstrable shift in participants’ cognitive and emotional understanding of dementia and its implications for those directly affected and carers alike.
  • An enhanced capacity for participants to consider and assess their own attitudes and performance, including ‘quickness to judge’ in care situations.
  • A more responsive, appropriate care relationship rather than over-use of reactive, ‘textbook’ methods.

Also, participants are now providing a more supportive environment for colleagues drawing upon House of Memories in an active leadership capacity.

“I whole heartedly support House of Memories because in helping to develop this app it showed myself and my peers that we can still learn and we can still teach, I know that our group is extremely proud to have helped develop this app knowing the great enjoyment it brings to all that use it.”

Tommy Dunne, chair of the Liverpool Service Users Reference Forum (SURF) a group made up of people living with dementia and family carers.

Plans for the future

The train the trainer programme is being spread nationally and internationally, with organisations in Minnesota, USA; Gloucestershire, Limerick and Scotland now working with National Museums Liverpool to add their own content to the app and deliver training. This creates income for the museum to further develop the programme to help the museum continue providing a range of free activities and resources, such as the family carer workshop, memory suitcase loan service, Meet me at the Museum weekly drop-in sessions, and memory walks.

House of Memories is now part of the core business of the museum and in partnership with other museums, universities and health/social care providers the Museum aims to develop the capacity to reach every carer of someone living with dementia.

Which national clinical or policy priorities does this example address?

  • Care and Quality
  • Health and Wellbeing

Start and end dates

House of Memories began in 2012 and is ongoing.

Contact for help and advice

Project contact for further information:
Claire Benjamin, Deputy Director, Education and Visitors
National Museums Liverpool
World Museum, William Brown Street
L3 8EN
T: 0151 478 4548

Media contact for further information:
Caroline Kenyon, Director of Communications and Engagement, Innovation Agency
E: Caroline.kenyon@innovationagencynwc.nhs.uk