Star Wards’ Newsletter #17

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13th July 2007

Welcome to the latest newsletter and a warm welcome to the new members of the network. Visits to hospitals are by far the best way for me to discover the excellent practice taking place, and although Bowmere has already featured (#12), I learnt about so many more amazing examples that this fortnight we return to Chester. Sincere thanks to Colin Jones, modern matron, and Dianne Byrne, ward manager and Lee Brassington, activities’ co-ordinator at the learning disability unit I was also fortunate to visit.

News from trusts – Bowmere Hospital, Chester

New building – 2 years old. On same site as old asylum – original workhouse dates back to 1829 and now used by PCT. Shares site with other health services – Countess of Cheshire Health Park. Lovely art in corridors, and immediately you come in front entrance.

Bowling green! Lovely gardens, attached to wards and in the grounds. Reclaiming football pitch areas for sports’ use. Used to have a 6 hole golf course on the site! Are considering setting up putting green.

Oasis cafe, used by patients, staff and visitors, will have cyber section when computers arrive. Signs up about monthly meetings with Colin Jones, modern matron, and PALS co-ordinator. And nice posters with photo of Colin and explanation of his role.

Prayer room has beautiful stained glass window, with scene of trees, sun etc. Centrally placed crucifix is movable, and are going to get stencils of symbols of different faiths for walls. 98% of patients are Christian but hospital has good links with leaders from other faiths.

Independent advocacy service has 2 offices.

Wards – patients have fobs to open their (ensuite) bedrooms and these can be programmed to open ward main door. Have Star Wards’ noticeboard, with newsletter, ideas already implemented, action plans etc. Whiteboard gives daily info eg who is each patient’s shift nurse that day.

Activities group set up and run by 14 volunteer ex-patients. Also support patients in other ways, eg shopping for PICU patients. 4 particular benefits of ex-service-users as volunteers:

  1. they can empathise with patients, are felt by patients to be accessible, credible, role models.
  2. Excellent way of finding volunteers.
  3. It’s a rewarding, validating activity for volunteers and puts what can be a very negative experience to constructive use.
  4. It keeps volunteers in touch with mental health services which can feel supportive for them and handy for hospital if it needs to have an idea of how they’re managing.

Unconsecrated, unused church on site has been converted into fabulous gym. Lots of exercise machines, and space which is sectioned off for activities’ club, including pool, table tennis and football tables. Opened by Chester Football Club and club shirt is framed on wall. Incentivise patients to attend – eg trip to zoo. Patients taught about exercising without the need for gym or equipment – eg what pace of walking and what footwear is best for them. Can use gym as out-patient for months after discharge, including choice to just join in the non-hospital, i.e. community-based exercise activities eg swimming and badminton. Also get exercise referral which enables them to go to local sports and leisure centre for £1 a week for 6 weeks. If leisure centre know you’re an ex-patient, they are particularly attentive and helpful.

Eastway learning disability unit has activities co-ordinator. Most activities are in the community, despite majority of patients being on section. Each of 9 clients has very full daily programme. All clients are eligible to join a Special Olympics team – 10 pin bowling and/or netball, which take place at local sports centre. Enabling clients to keep or build up community links includes taking them to see their boyfriend or girlfriend in the community.

Impressive flexibility and imagination in use of physical space to accommodate clients’ high level of needs including challenging behaviour. eg office in activities’ room has been converted into a sort of annex for a client’s possessions, as she destroys everything if it’s in her room at night. The ward can be divided into up to 3 self-contained zones if clients need to be separated from each other. One is mainly used for a deaf client with challenging behaviour, but he sleeps in a different zone (i.e. has two bedrooms) because he’s fine at night. Whereas a woman who is very difficult at night sleeps in the second bedroom in that zone but is in the main ward area during the day.

Have lovely multi-sensory room – a concept which is increasingly being explored by non-learning disability mental health wards, including as a mellow alternative to ‘seclusion rooms’.

All the best