SW Newsletter #21

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Sep 7th 2007

Welcome to the latest newsletter and a warm welcome to the new members of the network. Every day brings a new delight in Star Wards’ development, thanks to the creativity and generosity of members of our community. I’ve realised that we’re operating the equivalent of ‘open source’ software and website creation. You might be familiar with wikis – collaborative websites which are written and edited by anyone with access to them. The best known is the fabulous ‘people’s encyclopedia’ Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org). If you want to know about the social foraging habits of aye-ayes, or to tell the world about why the use of mechanical restraints on mental health in-patients in continental Europe is not a good idea, Wikipedia is the place to go.

Anyway, the open source process of one person writing something, sharing it with others who then adapt/improve it and share it is exactly what happens with Star Wards’ resources. We didn’t create a benchmarking tool, but Highgate resourcefully adapted our wards’ ideas chart into one. Gloucester then converted this from a Word document into an Excel spreadsheet which has separate pages for each ward and an inspired front sheet which automatically compiles the information from individual wards into the cumulative hospital position. And then Birmingham adapted this to include the criteria that the Healthcare Commission review is looking at.

The latest open source resource has been created by Huntercombe Hospital Roehampton, the first winners of our Full Monty award for having all 75 ideas in place. I was hyper-excited to learn that Advance Tuso (senior staff nurse) and Louise Helsdown (head OT) have produced a staff training manual for Star Wards. And rather than just the staff and patients at Huntercombe benefiting, they’re generously sharing it will all 200 (!! Wooo!) other wards that are Star Wards’ members. It’ll be up on our website in the next week or two. Huge thanks to Advance and Louise.



I really enjoyed my visit to Sandwell’s Hallam Street Hospital, and it has generated so many thoughts that I’ve done a blog on the visit: http://brightplace.wordpress.com/2007/09/09/hallam-street-hospital-gazebos-hugging-and-more/

Friar House’s ward manger Lisa McGowan is exceptionally warm, compassionate, enthusiastic. Lisa firmly believes in the benefits of physical touch in comforting patients, including highly agitated, manic patients. A patient came out to join us while I was having a fag, in the elegant smoking (or just sitting and schmoozing) gazebo. At one

stage during our chat, Lisa put her arm around the patient, and I don’t know how he felt but I felt warm and secure. Quick digression. The smoking shelter did not look like this: (a strictly utilitarian bus shelter, guaranteed to ruin the look and feel of any garden or your money back. Instead, it was a charming gazebo, something like:


One simple and lovely initiative the ward runs is having karaoke evenings and inviting other wards to join in. At the other end of the technology spectrum, they have a fabulous computer room with an expert member of staff supporting patients to do incredible things with the equipment. Some patients can use PCs and want to expand their computer literacy. A brilliant thing is that patients can use their photos to create personalized gifts such as plastic photo coasters, keyrings and magnets.

Amazingly, the hospital has its own recording studio where patients can make their own CDs or demo tapes. Despite complex copyright laws, people can make 1 copy and the hospital is exempt from the Performing Rights’ Society license because the CD is used for therapeutic purposes. For patients who want to do serious practice and composition, the computer room has a keyboard connected to a computer. I was given a demonstration of how relatively straightforward it is to compose multiple tracks, adding layer after layer of simple or complex tunes, with the sounds of different instruments! Because of the equal opportunities’ nature of mental illness, among the backgrounds of patients, the hospital has had professional musicians as patients, including singers and a concert pianist. How fabulous for them to have access to specialized resources, as well as for patients who may never have considered the pleasures they could gain from making music.

Hallam Street enables patients to build on the skills and interest in computers they’ve gained by having the local FE college come in to interview patients and enroll those who want to join. And when ex-patients start at college, they feel less thrown in the deep end because they have had a foundation in hospital.

As ever, I gained so much that I can share with members from this visit. Please invite me to visit your hospital!!


All the best