Small changes, BIG impact
“Star Wards is a perfect example of how to engage and motivate staff and service users to improve the inpatient experience without a mandatory regulation scheme and high cost tag attached.”

Inspiring inpatient
mental health care

Star Wards resources help mental health inpatients to make best use of their time in hospitals and allow staff to use all their skills
and personal qualities.

Learn more


Bright, the charity behind Star Wards, was founded in 2004 by Marion Janner OBE, a trailblazing multi-award-winning ex-service user. Bright closed in 2020. Star Wards, Brights flagship project, built on the expertise of people who spent time in or worked on wards. Used in happy partnership with wards it helps improve everyone’s experiences – patients, staff, family, friends and carers. There is a lot to discover, celebrate, share, publicise and inspire in inpatient care – both in the UK and across the world.

Star Wards is only one project and is fully supportive of the wonderful Safewards initiative:

Over the years Bright created other resources for inpatient mental health wards (found on the yellow menu at the top):

CAMHELEON - A resource that aims to inspire therapeutic care in Child and Adolescent Mental health inpatient wards.

WARD STARS - An achievement scheme for mental health care assistants and other support staff.

MARVELLOUS CARE - For mental health staff looking after patients with a learning disability in acute care.

ANIMAL MAGIC - Promoting the therapeutic use of animals in mental health care.

BRIEF ENCOUNTERS - A guide for none-mental health wards for coping with emotionally distressed patients.

WARDIPEDIA - Our encyclopaedic resource of good practice in acute mental health care.

TALKWELL - Helping communication between staff and patients.

WARD BUDDY - Help ward patients keep track of their care.

Geoff Brennan
Executive Director
Nic Higham
Inpatient Care Project Manager


  • solutions-image

    Wards have achieved:

    ★ happier, more fulfilled and energised staff
    ★ patients are more involved with their treatment and recovery, enjoy better relationships with staff and each other, and discover new skills and interests
    ★ carers are appreciative of their relatives’ mental
    ★ health treatment and daily activities
    ★ safer experiences for all

  • solutions-image

    It’s free, fun and effective

    ★ be part of a dynamic group of acute mental health wards, sharing inspiring best practice ideas and
    information resources
    ★ get inspiring examples of great practice through e-newsletters
    ★ achieve the Full Monty award for implementing all relevant 75 ideas!
    ★ experience morale-boost recognition for your marvellous work


The Star Wards community has
adopted and adapted our portfolio
of 75 practical ideas to validate
their existing good practice
and to inspire further development.

Learn more


From little to large changes through:

'Tweaking’ suggestions require minimal changes to current staffing arrangements, at little or no cost.

‘Turning’ suggestions take things further and require some staffing changes and new resources.

‘Transforming’ suggestions are the biggies – ideas which probably require the most investment.



1. Each ward has sufficient board games, a TV with Freeview and DVD player
2. Volunteer(s) on ward for at least 3hrs/day
3. Decent ward and hospital libraries, including novels and magazines

4. Bank staff recruited specifically for their skills in group activities
5. Domestic staff are encouraged and supported to interact with patients
6. Getting hospitals non-medical staff involved (catering staff, admin, management).
7. Hospital volunteer co-ordinator appointed
8. Artwork commissioned
9. Cooking by patients

10. Activity co-ordinator assigned for each ward
11. Community groups hold regular sessions in hospital
12. Internet connection (ideally WIFI) accessible by patients
13. Hospital has gym, multi-sensory room, library, music room, computer room, multi-faith prayer and chill out room
14. Regular comedy evenings
15. Community Service Volunteers support social activities



16. Each ward has an exercise bike and/or treadmill
17. Patients can meet individually with dietician and/or pharmacist
18. Walking groups

19. Half an hour of exercises each day, led by suitably trained person, possibly a volunteer
20. Advice and encouragement for healthy eating and giving up smoking available on all wards
21. Gardening by patients

22. A physio or sports trainer runs group and individual exercises
23. All patients who want one leave hospital with exercise plan
24. Optional physical health checks



25. Written info about visiting arrangements given on first day
26. Family/friends links nurtured
27. Private visiting room
28. Nice mags and games for visitors room

29. Flexible visiting hours
30. Good info for visitors and carers
31. Help with visits, e.g. with phone calls
32. Pets

33. Visitors budget, managed by patients
34. Friends, family and carer’s support groups
35. Visits arranged for the visitorless



36. 5 day structure used, with different topic each weekday
37. Minimum ¼ hour with key worker or another member of staff to discuss these
38. Employment status recorded on admission

39. Designated member of staff with care planning remit on 9-5 weekdays
40. Benefits advice
41. Leaving pack
42. Quick-ticks for note taking

43. Personal recovery file for each patient
44. Patients can, but don’t have to, take the lead in care planning



45. Self-help books and CDs.
46. ‘Protected time’ for nursing staff, for uninterrupted patient contact.
47. Women’s and men’s groups

48. Psychology Assistant for each ward.
49. Weekdays, at least one member of staff on duty has counselling qualification (or equivalent).
50. Each patient has option of at least one hour of therapy a day.

51. Full day’s programme of therapy groups available.
52. Placements for student counsellors.
53. Individual psychotherapy for everyone who needs it.
54. On-ward and crossward involvement of OT’s and creative therapists.
55. Core programme of activities on and off ward.
56. Personal Recovery Workbook
57. Each ward has mini library of MIND publications and hospital has full range



58. Day begins and ends with ward community group
59. Prayer, faith and cultural meetings are supported
60. ‘Buddy system’ encouraged

61. Patients are encouraged to support each other
62. Different faith communities’ festivals are celebrated

63. Patients’ mutual support after hospital
64. Each ward has recreation budget that patients decide on
65. Patients run ‘special interest’ sessions in own or other wards



66. No more queuing for medication!
67. Patients write own profile for staff
68. Patients have copies of their care plans
69. Responsibility for keeping ‘public’ patient information displayed up to date
70. Patients’ appointment diaries

71. Ex-patients involved in staff recruitment and recruited as staff
72. Patient involvement in how the ward is run.
73. Patients do daily self-review

74. Each patient has ‘recovery budget’
75. Patients extend stay by day or 2 to support new patients




  • Great Results


    “Staff on Regency ward have enthusiastically and creatively been implementing Star Wards. The results have included better client feedback, increased staff satisfaction, less aggression and violence and more therapeutic contact.”

    --- Nicky Lambert, Clinical Development Nurse Sussex Partnership Trust
  • Serious yet fun


    [Star Wards] enthusiastically uses patient insights to improve the practice and quality of inpatient mental healthcare and create a more empathetic and therapeutic space on hospital wards. Its work is serious, yet never loses sight of the importance of fun, food and animals, amongst other things, in the delivery of good acute care.”

    --- The Guardian
  • Simple, practical and upbeat


    Star Wards is simple, practical and upbeat. It’s different, as it’s inspiring, rather than instructional. It’s unique, as ward staff have a strong sense of ownership of the Star Wards project, resulting in very impressive and imaginative new therapeutic opportunities for patients. There is also evidence of a range of staff revealing and extending their skills and experiences and talents.”

    --- Ivan Lewis MP
  • pleasantly surprised


    “The 75 ideas really help you to look at the ward environment – both physical and social – with fresh eyes. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that we were already doing a number of things outlined in the ideas. It was so helpful to acknowledge the things that were already in place and that by making just a few small changes to other areas that the patients felt much more confident and comfortable on the ward.”

    --- Rachel Latham, Occupational Therapist
  • creativity, energy and goodwill


    Star Wards has unleashed a deluge of creativity, energy and goodwill that was there all the time in the mental health in-patient system, but was kept stifled by the sapping negativity that surrounds it.

    --- The Guardian
  • “unusual” in its positive aspects


    We welcome initiatives such as Star Wards, which promulgate solutions to the problems of patient care that we have highlighted in our reports. Star Wards has been developed by Marion Janner, a service user with experience of detention under the Act that she describes in her report as “unusual” in its positive aspects, largely due to the care of two nurses who were “approachable, concerned and good company”, “patient and non-judgmental”.

    --- Biennial Report Mental Health Act Commission
  • focus on the good things


    “It’s not often that we focus on the good things that we’re doing. But when we did, it was a real motivator for us all. Staff endeavoured to improve things for our inpatients by working hard to introduce the Star Ward ideas. It was a case of that age old feeling that it feels good to be valued. The process of benchmarking and action planning was the proof that we were doing this and heading in the right direction.”

    --- Tracy Kerry Ward Manager