SW Newsletter #43

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October 9th 2008

Welcome to the Star Wards’ newsletter and a warm welcome to the new members of the Star Wards’ community. Here’s the second part of my fascinating and very enjoyable visit to Avon and Wiltshire. Thanks again to Nicky Bennett for organizing it all.

Royal United Hospital, Bath

The matron, Lou, has the wise practice of often asking patients who complain about an aspect of service to get involved with its future delivery, eg providing more of a patient perspective in PEAT meetings. I was also impressed that I couldn’t meet the ward manager, Sarah – because she was out on an ‘outreach’ visit to an ex-patient who is back home.

Roy, the service-user rep, co-ordinates the weekly community meetings and also regularly visits wards. Facilitating community meetings is a highly skilled task if patients are to successfully resolve tensions between themselves and for staff to hear and cope with criticism. There’s a weekly ‘open ward’.

Some staff are trained in managing patients’ use of gym equipment, including (inspiredly) through training by British Official Weight Lifting Association. (Unofficial Weightlifting clearly not something to be strongly encouraged on inpatient wards.) The administrator also trained to do gym assessments. The only other time (that I remember which possibly bears little similarity to what has actually happened….) when I’ve come across a ward administrator having a broader role than admin, is the dynamic and exuberant Diamond Suite in Grimsby – see newsletter #38.

There’s a popular breakfast club at weekends, when patients might cook for each other, and sports include basketball, football, cycling and swimming. Lots of cycling to local places and “if someone gets a puncture, it becomes a walking group for the return journey!” (I love the pragmatism and positivity!) Fabulously, some patients are able to have a game of golf with the OT assistant.

Patients take part in the Bath Festival, and the previous service user rep organised a photography competition and donated some of the winning photos to the ward.

They’re part of the Matisse research project, working with a team of researchers from Goldsmith’s College University of London, University of Bath, University of Cambridge, Imperial College London and University College London who are conducting an NHS funded randomised trial of group art therapy and activity groups for people with schizophrenia. (http://tinyurl.com/5y9kgz)

There’s a fantastic system of patients having small alarms on their key fobs, not just for safety reasons but also for times when they aren’t able to move to get help, so it’s seen more as a ‘nurse call’ system than one for personal protection. In they year that they’ve been in use, they’ve never been inappropriately used. Similarly, no patient has responded negatively to having an alarm on their fob.

The big games room has the not startling sight of a pool table, books etc but a less expected piano. They’re getting a Wii and supervised internet access and already have Sky TV. The room was painted by patients and volunteers. Particularly impressive is the very simple and good practice of leaving art materials out on the sideboard rather than put away out of sight. Similarly, it can work really well to have books lying casually, even messily, around the place, instead of or ideally as well as a vaguely orderly library or well-stocked bookshelves.

The lovely OT garden includes a wildlife area and the oldest tree in Bath! Vegetables, plants and herbs are grown, with the benefits of a greenhouse. They’ve even got a woodpecker.

And in the interests of editorial balance, here’s a photo of Buddy without a woodpecker:

And… they have a dialectical behaviour therapy team and one of their psychologists is doing group analysis training. It’s so heartening that there are services which provide a range of specialist psychotherapies for those of us for whom CBT is contra-indicated or just of less benefit.

A service this strong will invariably be looking after staff as well as patients. One delightful, cost-free and popular example of this is that they decided to go for Orange mobile phones for team members so that patients could benefit from Orange’s 2 for one cinema ticket offers!

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All the best




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You might be wondering – what difference does Star Wards actually make to mental health wards? It’s a question we continuously ask ourselves, to make sure that we are having a positive impact. Well, we have over 800 wards signed up to receive our resources and, in the past, we have had Star Wards independently evaluated. A micro-summary of what our users have said is that wards who tried Star Wards ideas had:

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