SWAN Newsletter #9

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Star Wards Action Network

Welcome to the latest issue of SWAN. I went to the Delivering Race Equality conference and met two amazing women from New Zealand, Materoa Mar and Dr Sylvia alt Vorst. They are Maoris and are involved in providing, campaigning and planning for culturally appropriate services for Maori communities. For example:

  • some hospitals have pharmacies where traditional remedies are supplied, as well as Western medicines
  • families cook meals on the wards, as one way of Maori patients having their own food, as well as enjoying a homely experience
  • the importance of nature and the earth is taken into account in the design of some facilities. A non-seclusion room has a large window which looks onto a garden and trees, and patients can open the door and wander into the garden when they feel like it
  • interestingly, a new crisis centre can be used by women who use or who work in the mental health system. “The monastery is a beautiful house with 6 en-suite bedrooms and great grounds which include a stream. The service will offer a range of interventions, including access to holistic support and complementary therapies.”

I asked why any clients who had tough home lives would be motivated to leave the retreat. The response was that, firstly, they know they can come back when they want to. And that an important part of the service is to help make clients’ home lives more tolerable.

News from trusts

There’s a brilliant scheme run by Solent Mind in Hampshire – Wireless Outreach Network.  Patients in acute wards can get computer training through three sets of wireless laptops. The Internet is mostly used for communication, patients’ own research (including into their illness, its management and treatment), finding a ‘stimulus’ e.g. a walk through the virtual Tate gallery, exploring a hobby, even setting up a learner’s mobile phone! The recovery courses focus on using Word as a medium for CVs, letter writing etc. The qualified tutor and learning support assistant take in digital cameras and then show learners how to e-mail pics taken to friends and family, and even how to design Powerpoint presentations. Some learners take their newly found Internet skills into the local libraries after they leave hospital.

Ideas in action – culturally responsive wards

Lots including #59 Prayer, faith and cultural meetings and #62 Faith festivals celebrated

There’s a whole load of ways in which wards can meet some of the cultural and spiritual needs of patients from minority (and majority) groups. We’re going to be producing a guide to this, but in the meantime here’s a quick run-down of a few of the issues, as a taster:

Ward environment

  • Faith/tranquillity room – genuinely multi-faith or faith neutral
  • Artwork commissioned from and representing local and global communities
  • Different paradigms re: mental wellbeing and recovery and no global consensus re: psychotherapy.
  • Medication – beliefs + kashrut/hallal
  • Complementary or traditional remedies
  • Talking therapies – bilingual therapist or interpreter
  • Traditional healers
  • Care planning – takes different paradigms into account
  • Staff – representative + training…
  • Appropriate meals for different communities
  • Opportunities for patients and relatives to cook on ward
  • Culturally reflective books, DVDs, arts’ activities etc
  • Flexibility re: visits – some communities may favour large group visits and some patients will have visitors from overseas


Food, recreation and visitors

All the best