SW Newsletter #35

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April 23rd 2008

Windermere Ward, Dorothy Pattison Hospital, Walsall

Welcome to the Star Wards’ newsletter and a warm welcome to the new members of the Star Wards’ community. Walsall is now probably best known for their Tate Gallery but should develop a new reputation as a Trust to be in if you want some unconventional fun while in hospital. The three wards I recently visited each cater for patients with very different needs but share an impressive ability to recognize each person’s individuality as well as meet their mental health needs. Many thanks to ward manager Dawn Homer, deputy Karen Cox and Sal Saumtally, CNS for Education and Development for making the time to meet with me and for patiently answering all my questions.

Windermere is an 8 bed male PICU, although unusually when I visited there were only 2 patients. Like many wards they’re in less than ideal physical surroundings and are awaiting their new-build I2 male, I2 female separate PICUs.

I found myself scribbling notes before I’d even got into the ward as there was a snazzy finger-print and code entry system which I hadn’t seen before. But that was a mild surprise compared to the joy of walking into the ward office and finding the staff nurse modeling balloons. Now that’s our sort of ward! (I hasten to add that she was making modeling balloons rather than showing off a new costume.) Dawn told me that many of the changes in the last 6 months have been stimulated by Star Wards, which was good to hear.

There are 8 consultants, creating 8 reviews a week and they are considering moving to just one consultant.

Previously everything was locked, now bedrooms, bathrooms, everything but the kitchen and store cupboard are unlocked. This trusting, progressive approach to safety is consistently and apparently very effectively applied across ward practices. They have a pool table and if the ward is currently safe enough, leave the cues and balls out, otherwise they’re locked up in between use. There’s a simple traffic light scheme

for levels of safety needed on any one day. They bought lovely leather sofas – too heavy to throw and very comfortable to lounge around on. Interestingly, they have less problems with the TV now it’s not behind one of those horrid, Rikers Island-type big plastic screens. When occasionally they do get broken they are simply replaced. The TV and PC (fab!) are on trolleys, so can be freely and ‘normally’ out but moved away quickly if necessary.

The hospital is fortunate (and wise) to have an Activity Coordinator, Mike Toon, and also pool staff who can run groups or replace staff on wards so they can run them. Mike produces a timetable of activities, including evenings and weekends. Dawn books in extra staff to run the relaxation session on Friday evenings. A Band 4 OT is part of the therapeutic day. Wednesday is therapy day. In the mornings there are patient-directed groups such as a coffee morning. Some patients can go to other wards for activities and they try to enable patients to continue their normal timetables eg help out at the early intervention team’s allotment.

Now here’s a brilliant idea for physical activity and general hilarity in a confined space. Improvised space hoppers!! Perfect for the exercise-reluctant patient (or member of staff). They use giant gym balls for corridor races and, creatively, had a competition to see who could drink best while balancing on these. Dawn told me about

a person with learning disabilities who hadn’t spoken since being on the ward. Staff were messing around on the ‘space hoppers’, one fell off, the patient roared with laughter and said “You must get that on the Internet!” (BTW, do any of you have videos on Youtube?)

Other examples of a fun-filled PICU stay include having a Hairy Head day for Comic Relief, with staff and patients adding fake eyelashes, wigs, plaits, false moustaches, hairy chests for the cause. The ward celebrates people’s birthdays and faith festivals. Sunday night is KFC night, shared by staff and patients. It’s a neat example of patients who feel paranoid about food, feeling much safer if they see staff eating it. Talking of which, we had lunch in the canteen downstairs with 50% of the current ward population, Dave. So relaxed, so normal, so characteristic of the ward’s progressive approach. There’s a £25 weekly budget ring-fenced for patients to spend. Oh, and patients can learn to juggle.

The reception has a display of the results of the lovely entries to the Design a Placemat competition. The creativity doesn’t end there, as they’re going to get them printed and they’ll include information – eg local resources, 5 a day, puzzles, TV listings and that you can have a copy of your care plan. Perfect! On the display front, the pictures patients put on the wall are laminated so they can be safely moved them when the patient changes ward.

In partnership with the Job Centre but paid for by the Trust, an employment officer liaises with employers eg about sick notes and also helps with benefits. AND… the local CAB runs sessions Tuesday and Thursday, with the same advisor each time.

The main, not insubstantial, restrictions are because of the environment, especially being on the first floor without direct access to garden. The hospital is converting the chapel into a gym – but before they/we get dozens of emails from people rightly concerned about meeting patients’ spiritual needs, this is being accompanied by a building extension for a new, appropriately multi-faith room. There will be a 136 suite in what’s currently the duty suite, and will then move to the new-build PICUs.

They have a new volunteering policy, so will be involving volunteers in the future, including service users. They’re seeing if service users’ and carers’ group members can co-facilitate recreation groups.

There’s a new full-time pharmacy role and the pharmacist will start coming to reviews and holding walk-in session for patients. I can remember only once before having the issue of ECT mentioned on a ward visit. (Thank God. The whole thing totally freaks me out.)  At DPH, during the patient’s consultation with the doctor a new prescription for ECT is produced with a flexible rather than definite number of treatments. Before the scheduled treatment that day the patient can ask questions, discuss concerns and say if they don’t want this – er is it called a dose of ECT?

I love it when good, even ‘mandatory’ practices are superseded by even more user-friendly ones. Like wards which don’t implement protected engagement time because they’ve managed to integrate good contact with patients throughout the day. Or Sandwell Park providing information in less institutional ways than displayed on noticeboards which would disrupt the chic hotel feel of their wards. Windermere staff aren’t keen on the mugshot board idea. “We don’t want the ward to look like Asda. And we don’t have photos up of all the patients. It’s not ‘them and us’ here.” Instead, there’s a board with the staff names on it and they try to sustain great communication. And it’s apparently the first item to get smashed during an aggressive incident.

For further information please contact [email protected]. And for even more inspirational great practice in Walsall, please check out our next e-newsletter, with details of my visit to the hospital’s Grasmere rehab ward and an elderly ward at Bloxwich hospital.


All the best