SWAN Newsletter #6

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Star Wards Action Network

Welcome to the latest issue of SWAN. Following on from edition #4’s theme of medication, I’m very grateful to Darren O’Brien from the excellent charity Network for Change for sending me exactly what I’d previously been unable to locate – a paper outlining the specific issues of medication for people with mental health problems. It’s available on the Internet:

And you’ll no doubt have seen the very worrying report from the Healthcare

Commission about medication on acute wards, but if not, it’s on:



Customer Service Inspiration, courtesy of Phil Dourado

Jan Carlzon, legendary turnaround artist at Scandinavian airline SAS was one of the first to move away from word-heavy, pompous ‘rulebook’-style manuals. He developed a cartoon book, The Little Red Book, to communicate the new SAS vision to employees.

John Timpson transformed his Timpsons chain of high street outlets in part by re-designing the training manuals to be picture-led, at a cost of £2 million. “People learn best through images, not written words,” says John, who has pushed Timpsons into the Top 5 of the Sunday Times Great Places to Work list in recent years and whose stores have increased their profits consistently since the mid-1990s by focusing relentlessly on customers.

News from trusts

Thanks again to Alan Metherall from Gloucester for the Star Wards’ self-assessment tool attached to this fortnight’s email.  You’ll remember from the last newsletter that Wotton Lawn Hospital that they employ sports’ therapists and we’ll soon have on our website a really interesting paper from Alan’s colleague Leon Meek about exercise therapy.

And you all got the email from Owen Luck about the exciting link-up with Oxleas’ local (as in national local…) football club. Great.

I’m very grateful to one of Bright’s trustees, Sally Malin who is the chair of Barnet PCT for showing me the gorgeous new Edgware Community Hospital. Among many impressive features (including the best canteen meal I’ve ever had), it has a stunning advice and information centre. The centre includes a suite of meeting rooms used on a totally inspired ‘time-share’ basis by local voluntary organisations, for example BME groups providing counselling in mother tongue languages. And a huge, beautiful library that’s well used by patients as well as staff, including patients from the on-site mental health units.

. This visit prompted the inclusion this time of these two Star Wards’ ideas.

Ideas in action

#11 Community groups hold regular sessions

It would be great to hear from you about which community groups provide services and resources in your trusts. Ones that spring to mind include:

  • Samaritans, fostering mutual support, in the way that their incomparable Listeners scheme does in prison
  • BME and faith groups, particularly for patients with little English. It’s tough enough being in hospital for those with a robust command of the language
  • Advocacy, local Mind groups etc
  • Citizens’ Advice Bureau (A trigger for trying to get the CAB to hold sessions on wards would be idea #36 about having themes for each weekday, with money being one of these)
  • Health promotion groups
  • …. And organisations who could provide input on all the sorts of issues we cover in page 46 of Star Wards, about a core programme – eg employment, leisure, education etc.

#45 Self-help books and tapes

Patients who can manage reading in hospital, need access to books, in particular ones that enable us to accelerate our own recoveries and to support fellow patients. Ones we’d particularly recommend are:

  • the CBT self-help classic Mind Over Mood by Greenberger & Padesky
  • a very accessible guide to overcoming addictions Changing for Good by Prochaska, Norcross and Diclemente
  • a very time-efficient way of impressing your psychiatrist about how well-read you are –50 Self-help Classics by Butler-Bowdon, with an undaunting few pages on the big hitters from Ralph Waldo Emerson to the populist and excellent Richard Carlson
  • my current favourite – The No Diet Diet: Do Something Different. I’m part of the Olanzapine 2 stone gainers’ club, but it turns out that the book is an excellent source of inspiration for remodelling aspects of our daily lives.
  • And one from Buddy (my dog – buddyjanner.org is her website) – Dogs Don’t Bite When a Growl will do. A nice upbeat read which really does what it announces: What your dog can teach you about living a happy life. Lovely.

All the best