Five Monty Marathon

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By Nic Higham, Inpatient Care Project Manager

At the end of last year (2017), we were thrilled to present not one but five Full Monty trophies in a single day! Yep, that’s a new Star Wards record! The brilliant Full Monty achievers, all of which are part of Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW) wards were: Rose Lodge in Hebburn, and Aidan ward, Oswin ward, Cuthbert ward, and Bede ward at Bamburgh Clinic in Newcastle upon Tyne. Rose Lodge provides acute assessment and treatment inpatient services for people who have a learning disability and mental health needs. Bamburgh Clinic is an acute admission facility for men with a mental health disorder and who have come into contact with the Criminal Justice System.

Bede ward

If you didn’t already know, Star Wards offers loads of practical ideas, along with an inspiring framework, for improving the daily experiences and treatment outcomes of mental health inpatients. Not only is the scheme a great way of making a real difference but an impactful means of raising team spirits. Wards find that introducing Star Wards really allows them to measure themselves against other exemplary practice. Along the way they often experience a welcome blend of realisations which range from the feel-good “Wow, we didn’t know how well we we were already doing” to aspirational yet achievable plans for greater transformation: “We can do this!”. At either end the spectrum, it’s the small things that make a big difference. Every act of kindness adds up. The 75 ideas are a sort of mental health inpatient care “greatest hits” list which all wards can sing along to. It’s all about singing from the same sheet, not necessarily always in perfect key, but definitely harmoniously and enthusiastically.


Cuthbert ward

Enthusiasm is contagious (and productive!)

Enthusiasm is contagious and ‘Star Wards Champions’ play a key role in rallying the troops (or conducting the choir) and co-ordinating Star Wards projects throughout Trusts, units or wards. They help seek out other champions, keep the momentum going and organis inspiring events. Clinical Nurse Manager Helen Goudie (third from the left in the image below) is such an enthusiasm champ. She has the responsibility of co-ordinating the five ward’s involvement in NTW’s ‘Talk First’ programme, a Trust-wide initiative that aims to lower the use of restraint and incidents of violence and aggression. Impressively, every ward has commenced Star Wards and Safewards – the two main ingredients of Talk First. Helen said:

“This is a fantastic achievement by the staff and patients on the wards. All of the teams embraced the journey of achieving the award, working with our service users and carers to support this through co-production.”


Oswin ward

So, how has the project enhanced patients’ experiences of the 5 wards?

Patients report feeling more:

  • involved in their care
  • supported
  • listened too
  • valued
  • hopeful about their future
  • empowered to make decisions involving their care pathway
  • positively engaged
  • able to access “fun” activities
  • supported by their peers
  • able to reflect on their experience and emphasise the progress they’ve achieved.


Rose Lodge

What have been some of the best aspects of working through the Star Wards 75 Ideas?

  • more opportunities to listen to what’s needed to improve patients’ experience of the service
  • increased / improved multi-disciplinary working and involvement
  • getting the multidisciplinary team involved in reviewing what we provide as a service
  • patient collaborations culminating in successful events such as music evenings
  • sharing good practice with neighbouring wards
  • tapping into the ward team’s creativity to benefit patients
  • better team-working with the intention of coming up with improvements has heightened the staff morale
  • a reduction in violent incidents in-line with the implementation of the 75.


Aiden Ward


‘Togetherness’ is a clearly a central theme here. On my wonderful whistle-stop tour of the wards I heard many heart-warming stories of inclusion, involvement and collaboration. For example, Cuthbert, a forensic medium secure rehabilitation ward, came up with the ingenious idea of putting on a regular imaginary “away night” where patients and staff could choose, cook and eat a meal of their choice. One member of staff said:

“The rationale for this was social inclusion and skills-building in order to improve patient self-esteem and to break down some relational barriers that often exist within locked environments. Everyone said how much the activity benefited them, as it gave them an opportunity to experience ‘normalised’ human contact in a social eating and talking context.”

For a similar purpose, Rose Lodge introduced a breakfast club which is proving very popular. The club brings everyone together to eat and chat about what’s happening each day. Another initiative, put forward and run by patients, is a Café Cart which includes items such as toiletries, giving patients some independence in buying what they need.

As with those mentioned in this blog, many wards throughout the country are offering a rich assortment of individual and group activities. If you’re a member of staff you’ll know that activities can be sociable, recreational, physical, therapeutic and fun. Groups help create a chilled atmosphere and provide meaning, engagement and new recovery-supporting tools. They not only offer openings for constructive participation, but that they also turn clinical observation into meaningful engagement.


I was blown away by the team’s creativity, ingenuity and passion for person-centred care. It’s one thing talking about it and another thing living it and the wards clearly do. Presenting five awards to five amazing teams in one day will always be a highlight for me. Congratulations!


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