SW Newsletter #49 and a half

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I was already impressed by the report that Branwen ward sent to us outlining what had been done to introducing all 75 of the Star Wards ideas. I was even more impressed that Bethan Young, the ward manager, and her staff had managed to achieve all this in just seven months.

So, a little background before I impress you further with some of the things that Bethan and her staff have been doing;
Ty Llywelyn is a 25 bedded, purpose built medium secure forensic unit opened in 1998. The unit provides assessment and treatment for Mentally Disordered Offenders. There are three wards in the unit of which Branwen is one. The building is in a rural setting on the edge of the village, approached along an avenue of large trees. Flocks of sheep and their new lambs graze in the fields of the park land on either side of the road (more of lambs later!)
Branwen Ward is a 10 bedded assessment ward and their philosophy of care is simple; ‘We aim to provide an environment that is safe, comfortable and therapeutic at all times. Intrinsic to this is the respect of the individual.’ I’m happy to report that this is not just a ‘mission statement’ it was obvious from the moment I walked onto the ward that this was indeed working practice.

As I was being introduced to Shirley Munrow, Head of Nursing and Phil Roberts, the Senior Nurse, a trio of patients were mixing some music on a laptop and sound system in one corner of the day room and engaged in discussing this with one of the staff. I also noticed the delicious smell of baking coming from the kitchen and was informed that one of the patients was baking chocolate cakes (Oh Marion, you would have been so happy!)

The day room was light and airy; the big sliding doors were opened onto the garden and an enormous lawned area. One of the patients appeared carrying two oversized babies’ bottles filled with warm milk. I was invited to follow round to the other part of the garden where the ward’s two lambs, Alice and Bruce, were about to be bottle fed. I didn’t need to be told what effect taking care of these animals was having; I could see for myself the care and affection being lavished on them by the patients. I was given the chance to bottle feed one of the lambs myself so was able to experience that indeed pets as therapy really works – it was a really fantastic experience, that had me smiling and laughing as the lamb tugged eagerly on the bottle, not stopping to draw breath until it was completely empty. One patient in particular has benefited greatly from taking care of the lambs while others had made the ‘hutch’ (not sure what you call an impressive wooden, straw lined ‘house’) for the lambs to sleep in. This was made in the unit’s workshop where patients can get hands on experience with many wood work projects. For those of you worried about what usually happens to Welsh lamb and what effect this might have– no need to worry, Bethan lives on a farm and is taking the lambs to live with her when they mature to full grown and next year the ward will become foster parents to another pair of orphans to hand rear.

Next to the lamb’s pen is the polythene greenhouse where patients have made raised beds and planted vegetables and flower. One of the patients earns pocket money watering the plants everyday and there are other jobs through which patients can earn some money if they don’t qualify for benefits. Phil the Senior Nurse recalled that managers were a bit worried when the word tunnel was mentioned, until they realised that it was a poly tunnel being worked in by patients on Branwen ward and not the Great Escape kind of tunnel.

A newly appointed member of the bank staff who has mountain leadership qualifications will soon be taking groups on walking trips. This means that patients will be able to explore the stunning surrounding national parkland under the safe instruction of a qualified group leader. Patients accompanied by staff often take walks around the parkland and are involved in volunteer projects in the village.

As I was able to witness, cooking is a regular activity and those patients who have good cooking skills co-ordinate communal meals on the ward; cooking communal Sunday lunch is a regular and favourite activity. Patients are often asked to show new staff or visitors around the ward and ex patients are invited back to take part in special events.

There is a Wii Fit on the ward, and patients use the gym on the unit with staff and the physical training instructor. This is well equipped with a running machine, a rowing machine and weights. There’s also an indoor sports facility where patients play football, volleyball, badminton, basket ball, indoor bowls, and race remote control cars. Currently plans are being discussed to assess the viability of building a climbing wall within the unit.

As well as a regular timetable of activities Branwen Ward arranges special events. In March this year they invited a falconer to the ward. He brought 5 birds with him. The patients were able to interact with the birds at close range, and were allowed to feed them and fly them from perches on their wrists. The photographs taken that day are prominently displayed on the ward. The patients were so delighted by this close encounter that the falconer has been invited to make a return visit in May. They have also started planning their summer music festival and barbeque – complete with gazebo weather cover – well it is Wales after all.

The good relationship between staff and patients was obvious in the easy exchanges and conversations taking place during my visit. Bethan has managed to involve the consultants who now spend an hour a week on the ward (outside of ward rounds) so that they can just be there, available to the patients to talk to about anything they want to or join in what they are doing.

The staff were pleased to realise through benchmarking, that they already had quite a few of the Star Wards ideas in place. It also gave them inspiration and ideas to enable them to work more closely with the patients to support their recovery. This was confirmed by ringing spontaneous endorsements from patients during my visit. One told me that ‘they (the staff) work really hard here and there’s something to get up for every day. There’s always something interesting and exciting to do and before you know it, the day’s gone and you go to bed tired’

Julie who works with the unit’s advocacy service on Branwen ward has been a part of the Star Wards team and she reports that she’s noticed a big difference on the ward since the introduction of Star Wards.  Another patient told me that he felt the ward deserved an award, he said: ‘They should get an award. I’ve been in other hospitals and they’re nothing like it is here and if they get an award other hospitals will look at what’s happening here as a good example of what can happen’

I couldn’t agree more, with endorsements like that from the patients, it’s obvious that Bethan and her staff are doing some very good work. Bethan has been invited to speak at the Annual Nursing Conference for Wales in May.  Her subject will be Star Wards. We are very lucky to have such a worthy ambassador to continue to spread the message of the difference that Star Wards can make in the experience of both patients and staff.

So, congratulations to Bethan, who kept chasing her managers for the support she needed to make it work, who didn’t give up despite being called ‘Yoda’ (The Star Wars Jedi Master for those of you not in the know) when she first introduced the idea of Star Wards. Congratulations to all the management for your support to Bethan and her staff, congratulations to the patients for responding and engaging with all the activities and congratulations to the staff of Branwen ward for all your hard work and becoming the latest recipients of The Star Wards Full Monty Award.

Revisiting the Hartington Unit (Chesterfield)

‘Time for a Change’

There have been many changes to the Hartington Unit since Star Wards last visited us a couple of years ago. The Unit now has a new Area Service Manager (Kate Pickard) and a new Matron (Colin Kelly). Since these 2 have come on board there have been many changes in both clinical and non-clinical environments.

The Recreational Area (AKA Busy Bites Café) has just been given a face lift including a new coffee bar, painting throughout and new flooring. In the next few weeks we will also have internet access for all our inpatients as part of our ongoing commitment to improve our patient’s experience. A recent patient survey has meant we are considering changing the name of this area to The Hub – this is because it is seen by patients, staff and visitors as the hub of activity within the inpatient Unit.

The other innovative project which we are extremely proud of is the updating of our Reception area including a brand new toilet suite with full baby changing facilities and toddler toilet.

Adjacent to this is our shiny new bespoke Child Friendly Visiting room. This space provides a discreet, safe environment for patients to meet with their families and friends away from the busy ward; providing them with the privacy and dignity that we believe all families have the right to expect within an acute Inpatient setting.

All furniture, fixings and toys have been purchased specifically for this area, with children aged up to 8 at the forefront of our minds – oh what fun we had!

Yet again we have used the inspirational Mick Chapman’s amazing photographic ability to produce an outstanding feature window, creating the ambience of calm and tranquillity within the visiting room.

All of this wouldn’t have been possible without the driving force and creative influence of David Weaver (Recreational Team Coordinator).

The Unit will continue to strive to improve inpatient services with input from our Carer and Service User representative groups and we thank them for their ongoing support in our endeavours. Thanks also to all of our inpatients and ward staff for their support and understanding during the disruption and upheaval throughout the programme of improvements – I’m sure you’ll all agree that it was worth it.

The official opening by Alan Baines (Derbyshire Mental Health Service Chairman) for the Child Friendly Visiting room and associated facilities is on the 12th of May at 1.30 pm, all are welcome to attend.

Kate Pickard is the Area Service Manager (Acute Care & Rehab)
[email protected]

And Mick is a Health Care Assistant on Pleasley ward
[email protected]

We wish you a great opening tomorrow and look forward to Newsletter Number #50!

All very best
The Star Wards Team