SW Newsletter #19

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Aug 11th 2007

Holiday edition!!

Welcome to the latest newsletter and a warm welcome to the new members of the network. The holiday edition, with international attachments (!) was inspired by an email from Bob Titherington in Sussex – yes, that’s the same wonderful Bob who sends me the minutes of his Star Wards’ steering group. (Buddy is planning to get some pals together to form a Tibetan Terriers Steering Group Minutes Retrieval Squad. Be sure to send yours in NOW to avoid a visit from a pack of hairy, sniffy, licky dogs.)

Anyway, back to Bob. Here’s the bit from the email, a fabulous example of global Star Wards’ networking! If you’re going off on holiday abroad, why not spend a few minutes setting up a Star Wards’ project there???

My manager has just taken early retirement to take up a post in Practice Development in Auckland New Zealand. She will be keeping in touch by phone and email and exchanging ideas. I notice that the Star Wards pilot site in New Zealand is based in Auckland and I wondered whether you had contact details for them so that my manager and even myself can make contact with them to exchange ideas.



Happy as in Henry Stewart’s Happy Ltd. And happy as in… happy. Feeling good, enthusiastic, energized, creative, and making those around them feel similarly positive. I saw a simple example of this when I was at Legoland yesterday. There’s a Fire Station attraction, consisting of little fire engines you race to a ‘burning building’ where you fire great jets of water at it. The young members of staff give a quick introductory explanation about the exercise, and I was expecting it to be delivered in the usual lackluster, scripted way. But the first time little Matthew and I were there,  the (gay??) young man, Gary, told us that the winner would be decided not just by who came in first but who gave the best ballerina pirouette. This was greeted by a slight shudder of discomfort by the dads who were all psyched up for the energetic, manly hand-pumping that propels the trucks. (Matthew and I were so hopeless with this aspect of the exercise that our truck had to be pushed by Gary. Matthew is only 6 and has a severe learning disability. I’m just feeble.)

And sure enough, at the end of the exercise, these muscly dads and their kids raised their hands above their heads and gave lovely twirls. Gary awarded places accordingly, and finished by saying that we’d all make “great firefighters and even better ballerinas.”

The staff improvisation was carried on, in a different style, by Leanne the next time we went on the attraction. Leanne’s schtick was that this fire station was in competition with the one at the other side of the building. She urged us to excel so that she could stay ahead of her rival John in the other station.

I was really impressed that such a big set-up enabled (and perhaps encouraged) its staff to use their own creativity and personalities. It certainly added to the fun of the attraction, and not only for us visitors but also for the staff. It reminded me of an anecdote I heard at Wotton Lawn hospital. One of the dynamic HCAs who is an activity co-ordinator on the PICU described how there was a rather lethargic atmosphere on the ward one day. Spontaneously she found a paper plate and suddenly there was an animated game of indoor Frisbee!

Like so many of the examples of wonderful patient opportunities we’ve been able to include in the newsletters, there are no financial costs to the Legoland and Wotton Lawn staff exercising their initiative. And the benefits in consumer and staff morale are considerable. Additionally, there are usually substantial cost savings in organisations which have highly motivated staff who feel trusted and able to use their personal as well as professional skills. Happy Ltd has a waiting list of trainers wanting to work for them, with obvious savings in recruitment, and of course reduced staff turn-over and absenteeism are also vital areas of cost savings.

Please do let me have other examples of staff initiative and creativity that I can share with Star Wards’ members. Thanks!

Have a great August!




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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. Thank you for all you do.