SW Newsletter #29

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Jan 4th 2008Happy new year, welcome to the first newsletter of 2008 and a warm welcome to the new members of the Star Wards’ community. 2007 was Star Wards’ first full year, so we thought you might like a Behind the Scenes peek at the operation responsible.



1. Who

Chief Operating Officer, Buddy Janner

Some humans also contribute to Star Wards:

  • Marion – provides a feel of service user authenticity and takes Chief Operating Officer for walkies. Used to manage community learning disability services and set up a short-lived and spectacularly unsuccessful chocolate business.
  • Nick Page – the team Crisis Service, keeping Marion sane enough to do the above and gatekeeping the website. (And designing, up-to-dating and joking-up the website. And designing all our publications.) The rest of the time, Nick is just a much-published author, campaigner, stand-up comedian……
  • Sarah Cable – adds glamour and rigour to the whole process. We do nothing without Sarah knowing about and agreeing it. Mainly we just ask Sarah if she could please do it. An acclaimed TV producer, PR whiz and project manager genius.
  • Alan Simpson – the token intellectual. Alan is involved because he writes very funny emails and articles. His biog probably features more about his work as a leading mental health academic, based at City University and greatly admired for contributing to classics such as the City 128 project.

2. Where?Star Wards’ HQ (Marion’s study, foster son Matthew’s play-room, Buddy’s dining room)




3. What?

We’d expected that in our first year 20 – 30 wards would join. But almost 200 have! Staff have said things like:

  • This has been the easiest initiative I have ever had to implement and has been extremely positively received by patients, staff and visitors alike.
  • Better client feedback, increased staff satisfaction, less aggression and violence, more therapeutic contact
  • It has transformed the culture upon a ward that was going through a particularly ‘tough time’ and we’re all set to roll out the programme to our other 2 units, one a PICU, the other an open unit.

In practice, this has translated into thousands of inpatients having many more therapeutic but in particular, social and recreational opportunities, ranging from an Elvis Night to domestic and other non-medical staff being involved in providing informal support to patients. Most member wards and trusts have set up Star Wards’ steering groups, carried out benchmarking exercises and have action plans for the implementation of all 75 ideas! The first hospital to win the Star Wards’ Full Monty Award, Huntercombe Roehampton, was given a beautiful star mini-statue by Louis Appleby, national director of mental health, at our national conference.

The area that is slowest to develop is psychotherapy. This is predictable as talking therapies are the only group of our 75 ideas which has considerable cost, personnel, training and time implications. It’s reassuring to discover the increasing number of hospitals which provide a range of talking therapies appropriate to inpatients, not just CBT.

We’re about to greet our 200th ward member – we’ve invited a ward from Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust to be this landmark joiner. BEH is the trust that runs St Ann’s Hospital in Tottenham where I was sectioned and continue to receive exceptional treatment thanks to weekly specialist psychotherapy with the legendary Prof Anthony Bateman at their PD unit.

The developments of the year are being brought together and celebrated in the forthcomingStar Wards 2 – The Sequel. This is primarily a collection of the superb opportunities being provided for inpatients by our members up and down the country. Many thanks to all those of you who have contributed such wonderful articles and photos for SW2 – and been so lovely about meeting our deadlines!

4. Why?

Members regularly tell us that the main reasons why Star Wards is proving so popular are firstly because it’s practical and easy to implement and secondly because it isn’t mandatory. It’s about ideas and best practice, not compulsory standards. What’s happened is that Star Wards has helped unleash an incredible surge of creativity, good will and energy by inpatient staff and also provided a bit of a framework for the acknowledgment of your existing great practice.

5. How?

Star Wards is mainly funded by charitable trusts. We adore our funders, who have taken considerable leaps of faith in imaginatively and flexibly financing Star Wards:

  • Allen Lane Foundation
  • Comic Relief
  • Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
  • Goldsmiths Charitable Foundation
  • John Ellerman Foundation
  • LankellyChase Foundation

And our main ‘delivery partner’, NIMHE. We also get funding from the government’s Access to Work for up to 7 hours a week of emotional/practical support for me, to try to keep my lunacy sufficiently low-key that I can function. We’re a dainty project, with about 1.4 WTE staff, no offices. Plus continuous generous and wise expert advice and inspiration – thanks to you!

The other people crucial to Star Wards are the trustees of Bright, the charity which runs the project. Their exquisite expertise includes running charities and campaigns, mental health, finance – and advising and supporting a charity which is structure-lite but quality obsessed.

All the best for 2008 from all the Star Wards’ team of whatever species




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