SW Newsletter #40

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


August 10th 2008

Welcome to the Star Wards’ newsletter and a warm welcome to the (very many!) new members of the Star Wards’ community.

The Healthcare Commission results threw up some puzzling surprises. I’ve visited some outstanding services which got strong scores, and others which also provide highly positive, therapeutic and enjoyable experiences for patients yet got low scores. The clearest explanation I’ve had for the apparent discrepancy between the excellence of services I’ve recently visited yet low scores is the time-lag between data collection and publishing of results. This is unavoidable with such a complex process but inevitably disheartening to staff who have made extraordinary progress in the intervening months. And this has also been the period when lots and lots (hundreds!) of wards have got involved with Star Wards so all the changes this has brought about are also not reflected in the scores. It was, however, great to see fabulous services (and enthusiastic Star Wards’ members) like S Staffs & Shropshire and Gloucestershire getting strong scores.

Fair Oak, St James’ Hospital, Portsmouth

I was invited to the launch of Star Wards on Fair Oak, a Low Secure Unit at the very large St James’ Hospital in Portsmouth. (The hospital probably has many impressive features other than sheer asylum-legacy scale.) This is the first time I’ve been to a launch for one ward rather than a trust or hospital and I also heard about so many ideas and practices that are innovative.

My driver, escort, mentor and inspiration for the visit is Yolanda Herrera-Galvez, who described herself as ‘just a staff nurse’. No-one is ‘just’ a staff nurse and especially not Yolanda, who has been channeling her extraordinary energy and imagination to both consolidate and expand patients’ daily opportunities. Yolanda is part of an equally impressive staff team, headed by ward manager Sharon Wemyss, and (here we go…) it’s the first time that I’ve come across student nurses playing such a pro-active role in ward developments. If I tell you that Yolanda has created a logo for Fair Oaks’

Star Wards project, you’ll have a good idea about just what high standards and dynamism we’re talking about. Staff were even wearing white t-shirts with a giant gold star on them!

We were able to have the launch in the enormous garden, which hosts the hospital’s annual inter-ward football tournament, with teams comprising both patients and staff.  The event was celebrated with balloons being released, a presentation by staff, a bit of blabbering by me, a BBQ and finished off with a karaoke session. One of the patients, Pete, sang some songs, accompanied by his guitar. (Which he was playing. It didn’t just keep him company.) This morphed into a communal sing-along to such old faves as American Pie. Group sing-songs are such a simple and fab way of people feeling connected with each other and with an event. Lovely. Pete is an accomplished artist and has had paintings of rock stars exhibited in a local park.

Staff and patients had been highly resourceful in getting raffle prizes for each patient – meals at local restaurants, a month’s free gym membership, beauty treatments, shop gift vouchers.

Fair Oak is in a detached building, slightly ‘set apart’ (cut off…) from the rest of the hospital. There are 13 patients in two halves, West and East, the former for more acutely ill patients and the latter more rehab. One clever design feature in a building which otherwise provides as many challenges as benefits – there’s a short corridor between the two halves of the building, with two bedrooms. By locking one connecting door or the other, the bedrooms can be part of either West or East Fair Oak. Nifty!

The Fair Oak day starts with community meeting, which in future is going to be very Café Rouge, with coffee and newspapers, as well as chatting about the day’s plans.

The new programme kicked off (I use this in the lay/football rather than ‘naughty patients’ sense) on April 28th and the plan was to run the chosen groups for 8 weeks, evaluate the feedback collected during this time, and make adjustments accordingly. Patient priorities were established by using a questionnaire with all 75 Star Wards’ ideas. It seems that it’s not so much that taking part in Star Wards has led to the introduction of lots of new activities. But, like perhaps the majority of our members, it provides a chance to plan, structure, promote and evaluate excellent opportunities already available to patients.

There are Star Wards’ weekly activity boards on the East and West parts of the unit, with a cleverly designed grid, using Velcro as flexible way to stick up mini-posters for

each activity. (Unfortunately, someone seemed to have ‘borrowed’ Wednesday’s music group from the board.)

Staff support patients to take part in community facilities, with patients doing everything from Tae Kwondo to ice-skating via a vibrant bunch of dance forms

including hip hop, rock and roll and disco. Some patients study at the local college – essential stuff like maths and English, but also more individualised choices like floristry. They love a themed party, eg at Halloween the ward was atmospherically decorated, as were patients and staff in Halloween costumes, and all enjoyed the music, food and classics like apple bobbing. (An activity which could be classified somewhere in-between food, recreation and skills’ development.)

Other opportunities for patients include:

  • Great idea of a patient being paid to manage the library.
  • Weekly educational group with external speaker
  • Staff get free tickets to Vue cinema when accompanying patients, whose tickets have a 50% subsidy from the OT department.
  • Curry Club – healthier and cheaper versions of world cuisine take-aways cooked by patients and staff
  • Walking group
  • Pamper group
  • Console games, including a Wii
  • Karaoke
  • Taster group – sports and recreation
  • Sandwich group – FTD and very Delia, unapologetically basic.
  • Sat is film night

Just one day of the week is dominated by the ward round. The multi-disciplinary team consists of social workers, psychologists (2 clinical + one trainee psychotherapist whose specialisms include sand-tray therapy) OTs, and a consultant.

Future plans include making better use of rooms, eg a gym in the conservatory and a ‘storage’ (junk??) room to be equipped as a resource room, with Mind and other self-help publications – plus comfy chairs for browsing them. They’re also hoping to introduce those elusive ward essentials – a computer with Internet access and a pet.

For questions and comments about logo design, themed parties, making the most of community facilities and anything else that’s grabbed your interest, please contact:

[email protected]

And yet another reminder that all the info you need to be well grooved-up for the Star Wards Festival, is at www.starwardsfestival.org.uk



All the best