Star Wards Newsletter Spring 2019

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Welcome to our Amazing Members!

Welcome to the Spring edition of the Star Wards Newsletter dedicated to you our members! It’s packed full of news, lovely pics and ideas to help you make your ward even more fab!


In this packed Spring edition of Imagine you will find:

Spring Activities:

> Springing into Mindfulness with Wardipedia

> Pointless National Holidays!

Word From The Ward:

> Walk this way!

> Jump Out of Airplanes and Fundraise for Us!

> Identifying and Playing to Strengths

News from Star Wards HQ:

> We’ve decided to be Equally Well!

> Star Wards at the Big House on the Thames

> Star Wards and the Mental Health Act Review


> Congratulations Unicorn Ward!

Ask Buddy:

> What’s the importance of the build and decor of wards?

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Sick of the B word? I think we all are a bit frazzled by all the uncertainty, bickering and pure blahhh of the whole thing. So, as an antidote, why not sit back and wallow in the pure joy of good people doing good things in good places. Yes, it’s time for the Spring 2019 Star Wards Newsletter where you can be inspired by the examples of others to spread those therapeutic wings and think of something new and exciting that doesn’t require thermal underwear or wholly hats.

And, in spite of the general paralysis in the country, haven’t you all been beavering away on the wards? We have given out Monty’s and Camheleon awards, signed pledges and stood in awe in the Houses of parliament to witness at what you have done. We have been out and about – to Leicester and West London and Broadmoor and Devon and Sussex and Bristol and Sheffield – and are planning to go to Manchester and Newcastle and Grimsby and (hopefully) Norfolk– all to meet fantastic people doing awesome things. So I’m going to shut up now and let you see that at least there are some who can keep going in spite of chaos.

It is, after all, what you do best.


Spring Activities

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With this selection of ideas, your ward will be a hive of springy activity. We know that at times wards can be busy places to be and finding space for therapeutic activities can seem like a big task. No need to be daunted! Here are a few examples of activities that you can try, that are easy to start and fun to do!

Idea in Focus: Springing into Mindfulness with Wardipedia

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If you didn’t already know, Wardipedia is full of ideas and suggestions, most of them from ward staff. We could have called it Wonderpedia (but that name was already taken) because mental health wards do many wonderful, creative things and we’re all about showcasing these to inspire and equip Star Wards members. The ideas are simply spring boards for other wards’ unique interpretation and implementation. The following snippets from Wardipedia will hopefully put a spring in your step when it comes to preparing ward activities at a time when the weather is anything but decisive. In this newsletter we focus on the Mindfulness section.

  • Night staff have a half hour relaxation group at 9PM
  • Jigsaws are brilliant, and without wishing to over-therapise a simple leisure pleasure, they provide a wealth of recovery-building skills. They can be solo or group endeavours.
  • Sensory groups for elderly patients e.g. food tasting i.e. cheeses; different fruits; smells boxes (recognising different familiar smells e.g. mown grass, Vick’s).
  • A de-escalation room with resources for self-soothing including ‘care bags’ which appeal to the senses of sight, touch and smell. The room includes a rocker, light projection and body-sized bean bags.
  • Music in unit reception area! Lovely. Very welcoming.
  • “The corridors in the unit are lined with patients’ artwork”.
  • Flowers on the tables and beautiful plants – inspiredly, looking after the plants is one patient’s ward role.
  • Using photography to capture environmental and wildlife images.

Pointless National Holidays!

Here is a list of Pointless National Holidays that you could use; as a conversation starter, start a themed ward day or as part of your therapeutic on-ward activity sessions?


10th – Golfer’s Day

13th – Scrabble Day

14th – Look up at the Sky Day


12th Limerick Day

16th Love a Tree Day

29th Learn About Composting Day

30th Water a Flower Day

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There are more examples of Pointless National Holidays at Have you created your own National day on your ward? Please share them with us! Get in touch with us– [email protected]

Word From The Wards

The team here at Star Wards are always really chuffed to hear from members about the amazing activities that happen every day on your wards. ‘Word From The Wards’ is the section of the newsletter dedicated to sharing your wards news.

Walk this way!  

As the days ease, the call of the green spaces gets more insistent. We know that good wards go out of their way to make access to the outside a “thing” – and recently have come across two fantastic examples of this.

Take a bow Laura Jobson of Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust who has posted about Mindfulness Photography Walks on the fabulous Talk 1st Facebook page (a must join for any Star Wards followers on Facebook).

As it happens, Laura’s photos were a key part of the talk Geoff gave to the Green Walking Project meeting on the 2nd of April. We were on the invitation of the the wonderful Jacob Krzanowski, who is both a psychiatrist and a big part of the “Centre for Sustainable Healthcare”. The Centre is running the lovely Green Walking Project in 8 mental health Trusts over the course of 2019. Have a look at the case studies and sites here.

The people who attended the day were fabulous – and from all over the country. Over the course of the next year they are looking to form a network of like minded wards – so do get in touch if interested.

At the day, a very lovely person called Ellen Devine read out her homage to a wood. While an  inpatient in one of our hospitals for a year, the wood provided solace and became a haven for her. Here is her beautiful tribute.  

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Ellen now works for the Forestry England. In her email to us she  and sent this lovely message about her view of Star Wards and her experience with caring  Ward Staff:

Star Wards is amazing. When I think back to my time in hospital, it was the health care assistant who brought DVDs in at the weekend for a movie marathon, the HCA who collected up magazines for us to make collages with, the nurse who watched Gilmore Girls with me when I was too tired to do anything else, the male HCA who had me painting his nails, which are the memories that make me smile and remember that time as one that had moments of nurture in amongst the moments of pain and fear. There is so much focus on evidence based treatment and having outcome measures for everything that happens in a mental health setting and I do understand the importance of that, but as an inpatient being in the ward is your life 24/7 and you need time to LIVE and enjoy and laugh and just be ‘normal’.”

Thank you Ellen, and thank you to all the staff who helped you. You really have got what Star Wards is about – small things that make a HUGE difference to the patient experience.

We will be begging Ellen to tell us more about her work and love of trees in future blogs and newsletters as she is now a supporter, just like you!

But, of course, there are other ways to brighten up the ward outdoor area – and we have covered these in previous newsletters – Gardening, Bird Boxes, sports competitions ( on a recent visit to Silver Birch ward in Avon and Wiltshire NHS Trust I saw a garden yoga session!). Do let us know if your ward is doing anything spectacular, different or just plain interesting.  

Jump Out of Airplanes and Fundraise for Us!

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Do you remember last year when the NAViGO two (sisters Ellie and Gwen-O) swam freezing water to raise money for us? Well this year the amazing people at NAViGO are at it again! This time it’s jumping from the sky (what will they do next year?)

Please help us reach our target for fundraising for this year by donating. Star Wards is incredibly cost effective and our whole organisation runs on less than a Band 8 salary for the year! Every penny you give ensures we can continue to be here for you now, and in the future.

And if you would like to fundraise for us, we are putting together a Fundraising starter pack. If this floats your boat, contact Nic at [email protected].

And thank you.

A Panoramic Mural and an Honest Message of Hope

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We’re sure we’ve never met a member of staff (or inpatient) who wasn’t multi-talented and multi-skilled. This fabulous mural painted by the Full Monty Award-winning team at Beech ward at Devon Partnership NHS Trust, is a great example of talent and a superb example of how to give life to an otherwise dull corridor. This walk-through mural serves as a passageway to Beech’s sanctuary room – a space to unwind, relax and feel reinvigorated. Even the ceiling is painted with a beautiful blue sky and birds.

Nic recently visited the ward for their Full Monty celebration and was impressed by the calming and healing atmosphere staff had cultivated through various projects such as Safewards, Star Wards and Quality Network for Older Adult Mental Health Services. The team generously offered to write a blog about their successes – you can read it here.

Also, take a look at this poster Nic spotted on his impressive guided tour of the ward. It’s a WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) for the ward! What a great way to model wellness and hope. Nic loved the team’s honesty, openness and sheer inspiration-breeding.

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Identifying and Playing to Strengths

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On one of our many excursions through the land of inpatient mental health, a lovely member of staff (a HCA) mentioned the Skills Matrix. We were grateful for the reminder of this useful tool (info and link below) and also thought of the Superskills List we compiled as part of Ward Stars – a scheme developed by us for celebrating HCAs. Although we had HCAs in mind when we came up with this brilliant bunch of bountiful competencies, we know all roles that make up the MDT embody a lot of these. Let us know if this list inspires you to do something by tweeting us.

What does the Skill Matrix do?

The skill matrix tool will:

  • help you manage the skill mix for different staff groups
  • help you identify where skills are yet to be actualised and who can train staff in these skills
  • assist in planning and scheduling your current services
  • help you shape the future of your ward

How do I use it:

  • Use a skills matrix table for each staff group
  • Identify a lead for the group. Populate the table with practice staff names using the set up screen.
  • Ask the group leader to identify ALL activities, not just specific skills
  • This can be completed as an exercise with the group and captured on paper or a flipchart.
  • Agree as a group which activities/skills should go onto the matrix and then use the set up screen to populate the headings across the matrix sheet.
  • Now populate the matrix with the appropriate colour code against each member of staff, indicating who is trained in each activity, who is being trained, who needs training and so on.
  • Agree as a group with the group leader the optimum and minimum number staff skilled in each activity and enter this on the matrix.

You can download the Skills Mix template here. You will need to tweak it to make it suitable for your ward (identify someone who is good with Excel ;-))

Have fab activities been happening on your ward? We’re sure they have. If you would like to shout about them feel free to share any pictures, quotes or news with us. – We would love to hear from you! You can tweet us; @starwards, find us on Facebook; ‘Star Wards’, or Email us– [email protected]

News From Star Wards HQ

We’ve decided to be Equally Well!

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We started this newsletter with a feature on walking, and this fits neatly with our recent commitment to physical well being of patients (and staff). Have you heard of Equally Well? It’s a fantastic collaborative that we have been happy to join alongside many other great organisations. We have signed the charter and over the next year we will be looking for ideas and initiatives that help inpatient wards improve patients physical healthcare. So lets have your ideas and the great things you are doing out there so we can show what is possible!

Star Wards at the Big House on the Thames

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The Houses of Commons is not just about the B word. On an invite from our good friends at Positive Practice saw us wander the old corridors to a splendiferous wood panelled room packed with the great and the good. We were there to celebrate the publication of a fantastic report on how to keep the workforce happy! The report, put together in collaboration with the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (NCCMH), is so well written. A few pages of the explanations and TONS of good ideas, examples of good practice and oodles of happy staff. Our Henry for The Happy Manifeso fame would have loved it.

The best bit about the actual day was that it was the ground floor staff from Trusts who got up and were just brilliant. So yes, wonderful things can still happen in the Palace of Westminster! Why not check it out yourself here

Star Wards and the Mental Health Act Review

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If you remember, last year we promoted, prodded and pleaded with people to complete the service user and carer survey on the review of the Mental Health Act. Well, in March we were invited to a conference on the findings and what should happen next. The extraordinary “Mental Elf” posted all the talks and presentations online. If you are interested do indulge in some very interesting talks from a range of people – including perspectives about Black and Ethnic Minority detentions and from the National Service User Network (

And you can even hear Geoff talking about the Star Wards view with Rai Waddington. Rai is a champion from the National Hearing Voices Network and also helped produce an alternative Mental Health Act Review which many will find just as interesting as the real thing.

The hosts of the conference, the NIHR Mental Health Policy Research Unit (MHPRU), are very interested to hear people’s thoughts on what should be researched following the review. If you have an opinion why not complete the survey?

Star Wards has Friends in Good Places!

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We love having people who really get what we are about. If you have read our blogs and newsletters you will know we have lovely friends in the North East. One such is Dr Hilary Lloyd Executive Director of Nursing, Midwifery, AHPs & Quality at Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust (better known as QE Gateshead). The lovely Dr Lloyd, who knows all about the amazing Talk 1st work on wards in Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, wanted us to know we had been mentioned in a report on local accreditation programme for wards. And we have to say – it’s a very cool idea! Local people making decisions about local needs and local wards deciding their local plans. Why not check out the report – and thank you Hilary! The more people who know about this the more good we can do.


We Believe in Unicorns


Hi Star Wards family, Nic Higham here with a round up of all things CAMHeleon – our resource for CAMHs wards. showcases the excellence happening moment-to-moment in Child and Adolescence Mental Health Units (CAMHS). The site offers many positive experiences for  young people while in hospital as well as how to take advantage of these and how ward staff can help. Our extensive research into the everyday wellbeing of young people let to our developing the mnemonic COLOURFUL to organise the essential themes. The site offers a compendium of inpatient therapeutic practice ideas and resources which we’ve gathered together and presented in an upbeat and accessible way to save staff time searching the web for the good stuff.

Congratulations to Very COLOURFUL Unicorn Ward!

Congratulations to the staff and young people at Cygnet Hospital Sheffield’s Unicorn Ward (previously Haven ward but recently changed to Unicorn by popular request from their young people) which recently became the first Cygnet ward to achieve the CAMHeleon the COLOURFUL trophy! Unfortunately due to a bit of a train crisis, I couldn’t make Unicorn’s celebration day. I was gutted because I had seen the start of their journey in the summer last year when I delivered a bespoke workshop as part of our direct support offer (more info below) and I was very, very excited to see the results of the team’s hard work and energy. But I was thrilled to see the photos (see below) and hear from Geoff about the party as he managed to attend:

“Unicorn have done a phenomenal job. We are always impressed when we have ideas and we put them out into the world and people run with them and make them their own. The ward has done exceptionally well. Unicorn isn’t just a group of patients and staff but a community. I want to say thank you to Unicorn for this example of hope for other services right across the world.”

Here’s what one of the young people said:

“It was fun having the party and showing the visitors the new things we’ve done. My favourite is either the sensory room or the ‘All about me’ book which has funny photos and facts about staff. I can’t believe we are the first ward to get CAMHeleon, everyone should do it!”

Read Geoff’s blog article

Read Cygnet’s blog article

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What a transformation! This is a sterling example of a ward that has thoroughly taken to heart and embedded a service improvement initiative from the ground up. One of the secrets to Unicorn’s success is that most members of staff, and of equal importance, many service users, have got involved in the project. Unicorn have owned and customised every aspect of CAMHeleon and have worked very hard to translate its philosophy of care into practice. 

Do You Want us to Help You Get Your CAMHeleon or Star Wards Project Started?

We’re offering NHS and private services the opportunity to book our direct support, including training days, workshops, project facilitation and coaching. We can help you wherever you are in your service improvement journey (click here for more information). We’ll even give you some free CAMHeleon badges and other goodies. We offer reasonable rates and a bespoke service which aims to enhance the experience of patients, carers/family members and staff. We believe our offer will assist with some of the major challenges services face – to improve standards of safe care and to have less incidents of harm to staff and patients – leading to less staff absence, less complaints, reduced cost of investigation and legal action and reduced reputational damage. It will also help Bright to continue and thrive into the future. Contact [email protected]

To find out more about CAMHeleon head off to or contact us.

Ask Buddy

Dear Buddy,

Hello. I work for a big government organisation and really want to make wards as good as they can be. Given that you have visited many wards over the years, do you think the actual build and decor is important and can you share any of the good stuff you have seen.

Thank you very much for reaching out. And can I say, you are not the first government person to come to me for advice!

To answer your question, I would say that the physical environment is not just about providing a nice space. Back in 2002 BSW (Before Star Wards), the “Mental Health Policy Implementation Guide: Adult Acute Inpatient Care Provision” said,

“Poor standards of design, lack of space and access to basic amenities and comforts in much of our current inpatient provision have contributed to and reinforced service users’ negative experiences of inpatient care as unsafe, uncomfortable and untherapeutic.”

But none of us should be under the illusion that nice wallpaper equates to good care. As my human, Marion, once said “I’d rather be looked after in a car park by good staff. than in a palace by b******s”. We are, as you know, more concerned with the day to day fun and function of wards, but it would seem to be a fair assumption that a high quality environment can help patients and staff satisfaction.

From the here and now, these are some really good all round environments which have the added benefit of having good staff! These are of course ones we know and can vouch for. There well may be, and probably are, others.

  1.   The Harbour, (Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust)

New build in 2015 I believe. The Trust incorporated Safewards interventions when they started.

The video is trust produced about the process of the build and stars Alistair Campbell, a great champion of Mental Health.

  1.   St Anne’s New Build, Poole (Dorset Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust)

New build that we also know from their adaption of Safewards and previously being Star Wards champions. They also have a vibrant peer worker network.


  1.   Langley Green Hospital. (Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation trust)

This is a recruiting video – but note the environment in the background. Presently has a high and deserved reputation for excellent care.

  1.   Harrison House Grimsby, (NAViGO Healthcare)

One of our favourite inpatient units, partly because they jump out of airplanes for us, but mainly because of the remarkable staff, the chickens, the love of Orangutans, Donut Thursdays and Fitness Friday. Harrison House is designed to be like a good standard hotel with high attention to interior design and unobtrusive mental health adaptations. This is home-made video from my very own Marion – but really shows the everyday feel of an excellent unit.

The wonderful Positive Practice also say the ClockviewMersey Care NHS Foundation Trust and Kingfisher CourtHertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust  are pretty fine places – and they are very adept at spotting the good stuff!!

While these are examples of really good builds, much can be also done with fixtures, fittings and interior design, as has happened with all the above.

It would be worth revisiting the Enhancing the healing environment work of the Kings Fund (quoted in acute care) which looked at small changes to the environment.

But I would highly recommend looking at a present and fab charity “Hospital Rooms” which carries out small bespoke work on sites to a very high quality.

Finally, we often feature innovative local design in our blogs – like this from Cleadon Ward in Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust  (note the bespoke wallpaper!)

So thank you for your question – we are always here to help if we can – I’ll end with a nice blog from the dog house!

Of course, if our fabulous readers know of any others, I’m sure they will tell us and we can pass them on!

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We’re all ears!

We’d love to hear from you and to share your stories!

Please do get in touch, you can even write to us with a guest blog of your experiences of mental health wards or Star Wards.

Thank you for being you!

We’re thrilled that you’re a Star Wards member and we want you to know how deeply impressed we are by all the creative, therapeutic work you do. We hope you’ve found ideas in this newsletter which you’ll want to introduce today!


the Star Wards team

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