SWAN Newsletter #1

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Welcome to the first issue of SWAN – Star Wards Action Network! This is the first of fortnightly e-newsletters to Star Wards’ current and potential pilot sites. They’ll have a mixture of news from wards and trusts, inspirational customer service stories courtesy of Phil Dourado and some additional thoughts to each of the Star Wards’ ideas. We’ll be going through these in their numerical order, and hope that you’ll contribute your thoughts and experiences with them so that these can be included. (So, 1 & 2 this week and then… 3 & 4 which are about libraries and recruiting bank staff who have group activities’ skills.)

Customer Service Inspiration

Roger Dow, senior VP at Marriott, told this story to Don Peppers, at a E Customer Service World conference. It’s a nifty example of how change doesn’t need to cost a fortune but does rely on staff having a strong client focus orientation.

Dow asked his IT people to come up with something that would give them a fraction of the ‘customer recognition’ capacity of the Ritz-Carlton hotels: just enough to enable a clerk at the check-in desk to say ‘Welcome back’ to a guest because the computer tells them that guest has stayed there before.

The IT team came back a few weeks later and said they could do it for $1.3 million and it would take 18 months. Dow went ballistic. Shortly after, he was visiting a small mid-western Marriott. As he approached the check-in desk, the clerk smiled warmly. ‘Welcome back, sir’, she said.

Dow dropped his bag in astonishment ‘What did you say? I’ve been trying to get our IT people to make that work for months. I didn’t tell you I’d been here before! And you don’t know who I am….’ he blustered.

The check-in clerk, thinking she had done something wrong, explained: ‘Well, you see, when the bellboy picks up the luggage from the car, he says to the guest: ‘Is this your first visit?’ You must have said ‘no’. Because, when he puts the bag down next to the desk here he winks at me. That’s code. It means you’re a returning guest, so I say ‘Welcome back, sir…’

News from trusts

Jo Spencer – Camden and Islington

Our plan is to study each ward individually picking out any variations and

taking it from there. To start with we will be looking at areas where one

ward is red and others are green [ising a traffic lights’ system with benchmarking] and try to work out how one ward can replicate what another is doing already. Only after that will we start working on areas where all wards are red and then encouraging them to take forward one initiative each.

Ideas in action

  1. Board games, TV and DVDs

The challenge here is getting these used – and used constructively in the case of TV. With board games, staff need persuading that ‘playing games’ with patients is actually work. What might help is:

  • As with everything else, ward managers and other staff (even psychiatrists!) role-modelling that this is a legitimate activity
  • Providing evidence that group activities such as these produce benefits to patients additional to simply occupying people. There’s quite a bit in the Star Wards publication about this (p.28 – 29), but a quick list is:
    • Reducing patient’s apathy, and increasing their general motivation
    • Developing people’s social and group skills
    • Nurturing patients’ relationships with each other (incredibly important for patient mutual support)
    • Gaining a sense of achievement
    • Having a positive experience of recreation which has the potential of being continued when they’re back home
    • Pleasure!
    • Having the games in a conspicuous and attractive place


TV viewing doesn’t need to be a passive, isolated activity. I’ve written a guide to making TV very interactive and experiential for people with learning disabilities, and many of the ideas are applicable to other client groups. The 3DTV Guide is downloadable fromhttp://www.ldmedia.org.uk/3DTV.html


  1. Volunteers on ward for at least 3 hours a day

Although volunteers are ‘free’, there are time and cost implications in recruiting, selecting and supporting them. It can help short-cut the process by partnering with a service which itself recruits and vets, such as the local Volunteer Centre. Volunteers, like HCAs, can feel a bit at a loss for how to engage with patients so it really helps if they are given specific things to do eg:

  • Initiating a board game
  • Talking to a particular patient, especially someone who doesn’t get visitors
  • Sharing a skill or hobby, such as playing an instrument or a craft activity


Best of luck!