SW Newsletter #23

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Oct 6th 2007

Welcome to the latest newsletter and a warm welcome to the new members of the Star Wards’ community. All my shameless begging to be invited to visit you is starting to work! I visited three hospitals this week and, as ever, was deeply impressed with what I saw and learnt. The wards were very different in terms of age of building and location and what they’re prioritizing – other than that in each the staff were wonderfully patient-focused, committed and creative. I’ll of course be sharing what I learnt in future newsletters. Many thanks to Sue Stocks in Derbyshire, Chris Dzikiti at City & Hackney Centre for Mental Health and Kamla Sumbhoolaul at Springfield Hospital, South West London and St Georges Trust.

SWLSTG is the subject of this fortnight’s newsletter, with the first account we’ve included of a voluntary sector project in a hospital. Star Wards is keen to promote the involvement of voluntary organisations. For example, they provide an invaluable source of energy, freshness, outsideness and volunteers in most prisons but have largely overlooked mental health hospitals.

In October 2006 Richmond Borough Mind was asked to deliver an acute recreation service at Lavender ward, Queen Mary’s Hospital for inpatients at evenings and weekends until the end of the financial year. The project was run by a project manager, three project workers and one locum worker. The aims were:

  • To offer inpatients at Lavender ward a variety of recreational and therapeutic activities
  • To complement care given by Lavender ward staff
  • To improve the experience patients have when staying on Lavender Ward
  • To work towards social inclusion and recovery


Daily attendance records show that we reached all 67 inpatients either through groups and activities or through chats and one-to-ones. Offering a non judgmental and client centred approach Mind staff managed to draw and socially include most patients in the groups including very challenging ones. We established and maintained communication with those patients who were too unwell or not interested to join group activity and provided useful information about specific mental health difficulties, coping strategies, services and activities in the community regularly.


In line with RB Mind’s user involvement policy we consulted initially through the launch event and regularly with patients via monthly user meetings, activity tick sheets, attendance records and continuous feedback about the type, frequency and popularity of groups and activities that were on offer.

Being flexible and creative with many thanks to very dedicated and competent staff Mind was able to offer the following groups during it’s time at the ward: relaxation,

mental health discussion group, anxiety- stress- and anger management, art and craft, creative writing, storytelling, voice development, reiki, stretching and posture awareness, music appreciation, grooming & fashion, relationship skills, proverbs and spirituality, Tai Chi and current affairs.

All activities and workshops were aimed to build confidence, social interaction and self responsibility, explore feelings and develop coping strategies, provide the space and the opportunity for self expression, reduce anxiety and promote simply enjoyment of oneself and with others in a warm and welcoming environment.

Lavender ‘n’ Mind participated with 9 paintings from inpatients produced in our art sessions in the Art & Soul exhibition in Richmond Riverside Gallery. Many patients on the ward are very talented and creative artists and all have been very happy about the opportunity to exhibit their art work in the community. One patient’s art work was honoured to become the poster for the exhibition.

Timetable and session structure

The Mind service at Lavender was running 3 evenings per week (5.30-8.30pm) and on Saturday and Sunday (12.30-5.30pm). 30 minutes before and after each session were dedicated to handover and session preparation. On the evenings we had two hours actual time with patients and on the weekends four hours.

We designed and displayed at the ward a weekly timetable of activities. Workshops and activities varied from week to week in order to reach as many clients as possible and offer a wide spectrum of therapeutic activities. As relaxation and art were on great demand they have been offered regularly. Offering a structured timetable of activities but being flexible within this structure has proven to be most beneficial. Apart from relaxation all sessions allowed very restless patients to drop in and out. One-to-one support was given during breaks or during sessions that required only one Mind staff.

Ward staff asked Mind staff to write extensive hand over out notes, describing each patient’s performance and state throughout the sessions. This information was well appreciated and used by psychiatrists and psychologists.

Staff response

We have developed a bond with Mind staff and patients have benefited extremely well during their ward activities. Patients seem to be looking forward to their arrival and it has helped in their recovery process.

Patient response

This service has improved my stay here indescribably. I look to it in order to break up what otherwise can be a long and quite isolated day.

A really interesting model. We’d welcome your views on the relative merits of having an outside organisation provide extra recreational opportunities. And of course your own examples of the ways in which the voluntary sector is meeting the needs of inpatients. I saw in Derbyshire this week how voluntary organisations were contributing their specific skills in areas as diverse as running the café, employment support, redesigning the garden, help with direct payments, donating toys for the (fabulous!) family visiting room, running self-help groups and ex-service users mentoring patients to support them when they leave.


All the best