Star Wards’ Newsletter #10

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Welcome to the latest newsletter and a warm welcome to the new members of the network. You may remember reading in issue #7 about Hartlepool Hospital, which has embraced the Star Wards’ idea of comedy evenings. Thought you’d enjoy hearing, if you haven’t already, about a comedy room (sic) at Oxleas House in south London’s Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital. (The Tarn PICU at the hospital is an award-winning trust and one we’re delighted to have as a Star Wards’ member.) The comedy room apparently has CDs, tapes and videos of great comic performances as well as humorous magazines. Ward manager John Kelly was quoted as saying: “Research has shown that humour and laughter are beneficial to health, including mental well-being. There is no reason why patients should not benefit from something which is so easy to set up.”

News from trusts

There’s fantastic work going on in Coventry, at the Caludon Centre. I was fortunate enough to spend time with two of the dynamic activity facilitators, Ellie and Tom. To give you a flavour of the imagination, ambition, commitment and effectiveness of their work, Ellie was talking for a few minutes about the lovely pampering sessions that they run for patients. (Men as well as women.) She mentioned a make-over session, and only when I asked a few questions did it emerge that the free snazzy clothes that patients could choose to own weren’t got from Oxfam or even M&S. But were donated by Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood and other designers!! Amazing. Not just that psychiatric patients are now some of the hippest dressers in the West Midlands, but that it gives an incredible message to the patients, and those around them, about how they’re valued.

Ellie is an artist, and this is reflected in not just the arts’ activities, but in the vibrancy and richness of the rooms in the wards. (Er, not the smoking rooms which are as bleak and off-putting as in all other inpatient units. But at least they’re still available. Don’t get me started on the whole smoking in wards thing……) In addition to arts activities, they run crafts, textiles, writing, recreational, health and well-being, relaxation, outdoor and exercise sessions. It’s truly an exemplary model of how an activities programme should be. And there’s clearly lots of other high quality services and resources provided by excellent staff at the hospital.

I also really appreciated the chance to meet in Eastbourne the widest range of staff I’ve so far been introduced to. Lee Honnor had thoughtfully brought together not just nursing staff but also colleagues from catering, admin, site administration, OT, pharmacy, practice development, crisis resolution, the CMHT and day services. And two colleagues with a role I haven’t come across before but one that has to be deeply appreciated by patients, and carers – helping patients with their DSS benefits. Fantastic. A trust that truly understands the multi-disciplinary aspects of enhancing patients’ experiences and outcomes.

A flavour of the inspiration and quality of services comes, appropriately, from the catering services. Such a crucial part of patients’ days, pleasures (or not), well-being and their sense of being cared for. Just a few of the benefits of being a patient in Eastbourne:

  • Meals which are pre-tested by members of the Patients’ Council
  • The opportunity to discuss healthy eating directly with catering staff
  • Being able to order exactly the sort of baguette, or whatever, you fancy for lunch, with or without Picalilli/peanut butter/banana….
  • Some of the catering budget is ring-fenced for OTs’ use for cooking activities, eg the breakfast groups or weekend (ah yes, weekend) activities
  • There’s a food and mood group being planned

Among other impressive innovations in Eastbourne, I loved the simplicity and impact of staff bringing in their good condition, once-read books for patients. Star Wards is developing an exciting project, Book Sanctuary – more of that another time.


Ideas in action – #9 Cooking on wards

Sticking to the eating theme, some wards have the facility for patients to do some of their own cooking if they want to. This is certainly something that should be incorporated into new wards, and the previous newsletter described the importance of visiting family members (especially from cultural minorities) also having the choice of being able to cook meals for their relative. In addition to all the stuff about learning about nutrition, weight issues etc, cooking can be a very group-enhancing and fun activity.


All the best