Akenside Ward’s Full Monty Award

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By Nic Higham, Inpatient Care Project Manager


Well done Akenside for achieving the Full Monty award!

Akenside is a mental health inpatient unit with 18 beds providing assessment, treatment and rehabilitation in Newcastle. The ward is part of the Campus of Ageing and Vitality which is operated by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW).

The ward team was pleasantly surprised by how many of the 75 ideas were already being achieved by the ward, but not necessarily recognised by the team. A big boost for the team was to be mindful of all the good work they were already doing on a daily basis. To work towards doing even better they engaged with patients and listened to their views about their care and treatment and how the ward could continue to improve. On my visit to Akenside, I was very happy to hear that staff and services users have been working together to pinpoint improvements to enhance the ward experience. It’s always good to a get greater breadth of ideas and involving service users helps to ensure that the changes that are made throughout Star Wards projects are sustainable and will yield the happiest outcomes.

Ensuring solid foundations of change

When embarking on a Star Wards project many wards start by working though the 75 Ideas benchmarking sheet and tick off those ideas which are already happening. Understanding how your ward is doing is a huge leap in the right direction toward something even better. It’s great that providing the highest quality care and the most creative use of resources continues to be a massive focus for Trusts and organisations. It took Akenside ward about four months to firstly review the existing practice then to make a number of tweaks and put into place some excellent new initiatives. Ward Manager Margaret Milburn told me that by taken a reflective approach, they worked to ensure that the “foundations of change” were solid before introducing new ideas. We’re convinced, brilliant, therapeutic care is an achievable goal and the most powerful ingredients in facilitating a healing experience for patients are team spirt, confidence, humour and creativity.

I asked Margaret what the best and hardest parts of working through the ideas were and she replied saying:

“The best part has to be the team recognising their achievements on a daily basis and acknowledging and developing changes.”

“The hardest part was ensuring we embedded all the initial plans prior to moving on and channelling our enthusiasm in a focused manner.”

A variety of activities and the resources

A dynamic programme of therapeutic and social activities is essential for any mental health ward. Some of the new sparkly features born from the project included: Clear Mutual Expectations (see Safewards), chill out box, breakfast cubs, Music in Hospitals, garden development (supported by an ex-patient!), and ‘My Life’ software. Therapeutic engagement had clearly expanded on Akenside ward, Margaret said:

“Patients have expressed that they enjoy the variety of activities and the resources available which they are able to access 24 hours.

There’s been a surge in patient and carer engagement thanks to new initiatives like the fortnightly afternoon tea which is usually well-attended providing a space for the community to put forward feedback and requests. Another fresh ward event is the inspired “taster nights” where everyone gets to try different cuisines from around the world. Yum! Then there’s the popular movie afternoons and evenings, regular fun quizzes, walking groups, ‘out and about’ groups, visits to local facilities likes coffee shops and parks, and the Friday afternoon Wii sessions. Brilliant work team!


Self-appreciation has boosted the morale and sense of achievement within the staff on Akenside. They felt that Star Wards was a great way of reviewing existing practice, sharing experiences, developing ideas, showcasing good practice and “shouting about” achievements. We couldn’t agree more as that’s the happy feedback we invariably get from teams. The main benefit of running a Star Wards project is that staff feel a definite sense of ownership and commitment because they can create their own ward improvements and witness directly the impact they have. Remember, Star Wards (and our 75 ideas) is just a catalyst for effectively introducing new activities and practices which go on to enhance patient and staff experiences. Since each ward is different, it’s entirely up to wards how they’d like to use our resources and approach.

Enjoy your Full Monty achievement Akenside!

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