SW Newsletter #38

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June 26th 2008

Diamond Suite, Grimsby

Welcome to the Star Wards’ newsletter and a warm welcome to the new members of the Star Wards’ community. Apologies for the gap since the last newsletter, but it was well worth it – at least for me! Had an amazing ‘alternative’ holiday on the Greek island of Skyros. It was alternative partly in the sense that I’d booked the wrong holiday centre on the island, and instead of being able to make use of my wind-surfing and snorkeling gear, I ended up in a mini-therapeutic community, complete with 3 hours of group therapy each morning! Sounds incredibly heavy, albeit without all the bruises I’d have got from my feeble wind-surfing attempts. But the programme was run with incredible skill and hilarity and I thoroughly recommend it (www.skyros.com) and I learnt a lot of relevance to inpatient wards.

It seems a long time ago that I visited Diamond Suite in Grimsby. Ellie Walsh is the fabulous, friendly, funny, flexible ward manager, exactly the sort of person we pray will be running the ward we end up on. Ellie, her team and indeed the patients aren’t exactly blessed with the most modern or purpose-built environment. But the strong can-do culture is, in my opinion, much more important than being lumbered with an evinronment that is totally inappropriate. It was one big ward for 28 patients. (And originally based in a portakabin!). In Nov 03 it split into 2 – Diamond and Sapphire Suites (the not universally welcomed name for wards). Incidences of violence have plummeted since the split.

The ward’s effectiveness is reflected both in the masses of thank you cards on the notice board and more formally through achieving accreditation by the RCPsych’s AIMS scheme, which has very demanding standards.

At the morning planning meeting, patients can book for local activities eg bowling or Tai Chi. They no longer makes detailed plans a week in advance because so much can change. Make rough plans and confirm with the people who will be visiting from outside organisations.

I was delighted that Diamond Suite has embraced one of our 75 ideas which I like most but which has been greeted decidedly sub-enthusiastically by most of our members: themes for weekdays. They currently have:

Monday – purposeful occupation eg hobbies, crafts, employment (with employment specialist from Tukes, a fantastic local service user organisation)

Tue – healthy eating

Wed – physical activity

Thur – self-esteem

Fri – domestic living skills

Every patient can have a 15 minute 1:1 session with a member of staff each shift. 10 – 12 and 2.30 – 4 are protected engagement time. During these times, there’s a big sign on door “No entry – nurses busy nursing!” I love the clarity, assertiveness and also humour conveyed in these few words.

While I was visiting there was a Cultural Activities session with staff member Kenny. They’ve recognised that anyone can bash a hand drum and some staff and patients can play the guitar. I found it surprisingly moving to experience a patient considered very unwell not just playing a guitar with great expertise and expression, but managing this with the instrument upside down as she’s left-handed and the guitar wasn’t. (Must be some sort of metaphor for patient resilience and adaptability here.) And also hearing and seeing the interaction, synchronicity and equality between the patient and nurse who were playing the duet. The session’s inclusive approach was furthered by the participation of the pharmacist and ward clerk. Fab!

And talking of inclusivity, the ward was about to have two new residents move into the ward. Or, more specifically, the courtyard. Two guinea pigs. I’ve just had an update from Ellie saying there was unfortunate friction over the weeks with Kev and Kenny and they  had to be split up. It was reassuring to learn that one of the nursing assistants is adopting Kev and they are going to get Kenny a nice lady friend. From a different species (of the bunny variety).

Impressively and imaginatively, the housekeeper also has a nursing assitant role, which includes going to patients’ homes. This seems to increase staff retention because it’s a more enriched role. Thanks to having a ward clerk and housekeeper means the managers of both wards can concentrate on clinical issues “not the curtain changing schedule”. The housekeeper liaises with estates, catering, linen services and ensures appropriate stock levels, including avoiding excess stock which helps keep the wards within budget.

Something I haven’t come across before and was very excited about was that the cleaners are part of Tukes Employment, all ex-service users on full, open contracts. Ellie was preparing a press release to attract volunteers, including in a befriending role for carers.

Although the food is delivered from the kitchen of the main on-site hospital (Diana Princess of Wales Hospital) but they nevertheless cook some meals on the ward and the kitchen has a very domestic feel with nice units.

They have a pizza/Chinese night at weekends and there are always snacks available. Staff eat in the ward dining room with patients, which is a great practice which seems to be slowly catching on in mental health wards.

Brilliantly, they converted the linen room to a Snoezelen (multi-sensory) room and the smoking room to a pampering and exercise room. A nursing assistant is trained in beauty treatments including Indian head massage.

They changed from control and restraint to SCIP (Strategy for Crisis Intervention and Prevention) and service users teach on the course.

They’ve had 3 incidents in 5 years!

Happily, the service (and patients and staff) will be getting a building which is as excellent as the ward practices. The new-build will include an Enhanced Care Unit and 2 x 10 patient wards, with 1 male and female wing, complete with therapy, sports and activities spaces.

There’s a lovely piece about Diamond Suite’s involvement with Star Wards at:

And for more information, you can contact Ellie at: [email protected]

Finally…. A quick reminder to register as soon as possible for the Star Wards Festival, which is happening on September 9th in London. You need to register online at www.starwardsfestival.org.uk and because, happily, there are so many Star Wards’ members, we need to restrict numbers to one Festival guest per member ward.


All the best