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Our Activity Transformation

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Guest Blog

Hi, I’m Jim Armstrong. I’ve been working in mental health for over 25 years. Before this I worked in heavy engineering from leaving school (quite a career shift, hey!). I wanted to work with people, while being hands-on and practical. For the last year I’ve been working as part of Lowry and Collingwood Wards at Hadrian Clinic, which is part of Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW). I love my job as an Occupational Therapy Assistant Practitioner. It’s great to work with people and to make a difference.

Recently, we’ve been in touch with “Get Active Newcastle”. This is a project we started in summer 2017 which involves doing physical activities in the park next to the hospital, as well as Nordic walking, tennis, cricket and others. This has really taken off; we now have a Tai Chi instructor who comes in every Tuesday morning for an hour session with the female ward (Lowry). We’re still meeting in the park (yes, even in this colder weather) with the physical activities instructor and his assistant. They bring different activities and challenges every week which everyone enjoys. We’ve also been given a table tennis table and all the bats and balls by “Ping Newcastle”. We’re even getting the representative from Ping to come to the wards to host a table tennis tournament this week!

I wouldn’t have believed this change were possible if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.

These activities are having a massive impact on both wards. Nursing staff, as well as doctors, have noticed the positive changes. We’re getting people up and about on a regular basis doing activities that they’ve not done since leaving school. As well as having an impact on their physical and mental health, we’re able to get a better picture of how patients interact in a “normal” environment on a social level. A patient who once needed assistance to eat has got stuck into the activities and is now shooting baskets and playing football! I wouldn’t have believed this change were possible if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. The change has been amazing, not just with this one patient but with our inpatient community in general. They’re even feeling empowered enough to organise pool and table tennis tournaments at weekends!

In addition to all of this, we’re providing weekend activity boxes which are full of items such as: games, challenges, the fixture list for the tournaments, prizes, as well as craft materials. We collect the boxes from the wards on the Monday with the feedback form. We review the boxes at the ward community meetings to see how well they’ve been used and we also ask for ideas for the next weekend boxes.

Separate from my ward activities, I do some volunteer work for AIM (Altering Images of Mentality) we have put together a calendar using service user’s art from around the region.

My ethos in everything I do is based on how I can improve the patient experience, to continually ask “what small changes can be made to make a positive difference?”

My ethos in everything I do is based on how I can improve the patient experience, to continually ask “what small changes can be made to make a positive difference?” If you’re doing an arts and crafts session, for example, try to put in place the little special things like tea and coffee, select the ideal music choice, and deliver the right crafts without being patronising.

Out of all the changes and proposals made by management, Star Wards is the one that appears to have legs.

Out of all the changes and proposals made by management, Star Wards is the one that appears to have legs. Not that it’s any better than what has been before it; it just appears to be supported by everyone from the top right down to the “shop floor” – more of a team effort. The Occupational Therapy team and ward staff here are really enthusiastic about Star Wards. It’s changing people’s experience of being an inpatient, increasing our job satisfaction, and on a tangible level, it’s decreasing the amount of incidents we see on the wards. We’re able to see the impact that it’s having through incident reporting forms (IR1) allowing us to swiftly identify hot spots and make a collective effort to tackle them. A result of this is the weekend activity boxes.

 

 

Our slow cooker.

 

A visit from a cute ferret!

 

Coco and his handler.

 

Our winning halloween cake which was judged by our domestics.

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You might be wondering – what difference does Star Wards actually make to mental health wards? It’s a question we continuously ask ourselves, to make sure that we are having a positive impact. Well, we have over 800 wards signed up to receive our resources and, in the past, we have had Star Wards independently evaluated. A micro-summary of what our users have said is that wards who tried Star Wards ideas had:

This is not about us, it is about people like you. These improvements are down to your hard work. And you can check our newsletters for wards doing amazing things right now. So we are told we do help you make a difference – and we want to get better and be here to help you in the future. So, join up, join in and let us know your wonderful ideas – and if you can donate to us or fundraise for us, we would be delighted to hear from you. You can donate on the website or discuss fundraising by e-mailing here. Thank you for all you do.