SW Newsletter #33

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March 4th 2008

Norbury Ward, St George’s Hospital, Stafford

Welcome to the Star Wards’ newsletter and a warm welcome to the new members of the Star Wards’ community, including all 11 wards which have just joined from St Nicholas Hospital, Newcastle.

Further south, this newsletter continues the accounts of a series of visits I’ve been fortunate to make to the brilliant services provided by South Staffs and Shropshire. There’s so much to write that I’m having to spread the information from my visit to St George’s across two editions. And had I been able to visit the other admission ward, there would have been even more. But the police were ‘in attendance’, as London Underground like to say about the fire service, a delightfully understated way of describing the emergency services’ interventions. Makes them sound more like by-standers at the vicar’s tea party than key players in a crisis. A later newsletter will describe the fantastic time Buddy and I had in Grimsby. Aspects of the visit were a bit like a bedroom farce, with each flurry of excitement (from floods of sinks to floods of tears) being expertly and gently resolved just before I came back into the ward.

Angela the ward manager kindly spent time showing and telling me about Norbury Ward, an Intensive Care Unit. She described how the staff team feel proud of what they achieve. Their approach is “proactive, not about containment and medication.” The ward feels very light and spacious. Colour changing mood lighting set into huge skylight in centre of ward. The ward benefitted from the King’s Fund’s Enhancing the Healing Environment initiative, with new furniture, redecoration and artwork. One of the walls was painted in a colour chosen by patients – counter-intuitively it’s red! Apparently this did stimulate quite a bit of ‘discussion’ but it looks really good (it’s an orangey rather than scarlet red) and modern and bright, and is enjoyed by patients and staff.

The OT is very involved with ward. Runs relaxation group and craft afternoon, among other activities. The Wednesday art group is externally facilitated. Are able to use the gym and sports hall of the large MSU on the site. Staff have to be trained by the MSU’s gym instructor about safe use of gym equipment, as the instructor won’t necessarily be there when PICU patients are.

Weekly OT breakfast group v popular. Nice fry-up. No oven so OT brings 2 ring camping stove. (Fantastic, simple, classically OT improvisation!) Had to make it start earlier because so popular that would sometimes stretch to lunchtime! Patients like cooking meals for each other.

Access local facilities eg bowling clubs, recreation centre, for stimulation, finding out about local facilities etc.

Discussion group worked well when there were more women on ward than now. Lots of Scrabble and chess. One of patients is keen chess player and teaches others how to play. Invaluable format for engaging with patients who are otherwise too ill and disinterested to communicate with others.

LCD flat-screen TV for playing Wii. You can put your own character on the game. Got bowling, Smarty Pants (trivia quiz – staff join in and patients love it when staff can’t answer questions), Wii sports – golf, boxing, tennis, baseball; want to get Wii Olympics (athletics etc)

Film evening on a Friday.

Facilitate visits by young kids at the MSU or admission wards.

‘Quiet room’ instead of (calling it) seclusion room.

Angela feels it’s important to see IC as about risk to self as well as others, including vulnerability from other people. Not just about aggression and violence. Move to PIC needs to be seen as therapeutic and beneficial rather than punitive.


It was a real pleasure to visit a PICU which is so dynamic and palpably about much more than simply ‘weathering the storm’, with lots of stimulating activities for patients – and staff. Thanks again to Angela, and also to Lisa Agell and Debbie Moores for arranging the visit. (Which included lunch in the least canteen-like, most caféish hospital dining room I’ve seen. Very impressive!)

For further information please contact [email protected]


All the best