28 Oct

Ward Stars

What is Ward Stars?

Ward Stars is an exciting validation and professional development scheme for Healthcare Assistants (HCAs) from Star Wards. Ward Stars helps make explicit those aspects of HCAs’ work particularly valued by mental health inpatients. For example: the nurturing of relationships, exercising empathic imagination, providing patients with opportunities for meaningful involvement and constructive activity. The process is structured around seven ‘Stars’ which are each focused on key themes of therapeutic inpatient care.

We use the term “HCA” to refer to healthcare assistants and auxiliaries, Assistant Practitioners, healthcare support workers and those giving support to clinical roles in mental health inpatient settings.

Ward Stars offers an opportunity for HCAs to be acknowledged for their significant contribution to patients’ ward experience and treatment outcomes, to feel validated and appreciated through feedback and certificates, and to gain a sense of achievement for undertaking such a challenging, diverse and rewarding role. The scheme provides an inspirational structure for professional reflection and development, rather than a more standardised accreditation or training programme. Staff who successfully work their way through the Stars will accumulate a portfolio of relevant aspects of their work and will be presented with an attractive certificate for each completed Star. The Stars demonstrate and weave together a golden thread of values, skills, personal attributes and competences which are very much in line with the Certificate of Fundamental Care proposed by the Cavendish Review. Ward Stars aims to enhance the status and reputation of the HCA role, in addition to being a highly motivating and practical process for staff described by Camilla Cavendish as “extraordinary, dedicated carers”.


Healthcare assistants are fab!

We’re increasingly struck by just how complex, sensitive, emotionally and physically demanding it is to work on a mental health ward. And we’re bursting with appreciation for everyone who heroically does so, especially healthcare assistants who are often the staff who have most direct contact with patients.



HCAs are often thought of as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the ward because of the key part the role plays in inpatient care. If you’re an HCA, you’ll most likely remember countless times when you’ve found yourself in the deep end; drawing on a diverse range of skills and talents (some of which you may not have realised you had), and responding in the moment with compassion and expertise. Skillfully juggling the needs of different patients at the same time, resourcefully providing engaging and therapeutic activity, happily being on hand to offer a listening ear, continuously working to prevent or diffuse potentially explosive situations, being self-aware, and generally being dynamic, warm and committed. Certainly a demanding role!



We’re constantly enthused, amazed and impressed by HCA’s creativity and hard work. Ward Stars (see what we we’ve done there?) is all about appreciating and acknowledging HCAs. The scheme is designed to help validate HCAs’ professional and personal skills and support their relationships with patients.  Ward Stars is an achievement and acknowledgment scheme rather than accreditation or training programme, and different staff will apply the criteria differently, even idiosyncratically. And that’s great! Unheavy, unbureaucratic, trusting, validating.

Although reference is made to Healthcare Assistants (and equivalent titles), as with all Star Wards resources Ward Stars is designed to be adapted. The structure may also work well for your Occupational Therapist Assistants, Housekeepers and other support staff.


How Ward Stars Works

a. Ward Stars is designed to

  • Be motivating and energising for HCAs
  • Make explicit those aspects of HCAs’ work particularly valued by patients eg warm and empathetic personal qualities
  • Contribute to meeting HCAs’ appetite and need for professional development
  • Provide a helpful structure for professional development
  • Publicly validate good practice
  • Enhance the status and reputation of the HCA role
  • Help demonstrate the skills and qualities which are likely to be included in the Certificate of Fundamental Care proposed by the Cavendish Review

b.     Structure

There are seven ‘Stars’ which are based on themes of therapeutic inpatient care used in Wardipedia, represented by the acronym IMAGINE. These are:

  1. Imagination
  2. Mindfulness
  3. Activities
  4. Generosity
  5. Involvement
  6. Neighbours
  7. Empathy

These themes or ‘Stars’ can be worked through in any order. The best way to start may be to pick the one that impacts you the most. Or conversely, you can start at Imagination and work through each one in the order shown above. We have provided a description of each Star along with some relevant tried-and-tested examples and ideas – see the ‘Imagine This…’ boxes throughout the Star pages.

Each Star has a simple sheet to fill in with the relevant evidence of achievement. The completed evidence sheets gradually build up a portfolio.  These can be downloaded via the downloads page. To accompany these there are seven Star certificates which ward managers can present to the HCA upon successfully completing each evidence sheet. There’s a final ‘Super Star’ certificate for those staff who, magnificently, manage to complete all seven stars. These can also be downloaded via the downloads page.

c.      How Ward Stars can be used

As always with Star Wards, this is completely up to you. We hope that whatever the ways in which it’s used, it will always help HCAs feel aware and happy about the huge range of skills and qualities you use every single day.

  • Ward staff and managers identifying and applauding HCAs’ skills and qualities
  • Staff training and development – not only HCAs but elements of Ward Stars can be used with support staff, volunteers, patients, carers…
  • Supervision and appraisals
  • Recruitment (through the detailed identification of skills and qualities needed)

 d.     Relationship to other initiatives

Official core competencies

There’s no shortage of official lists of professional skills! Ward Stars doesn’t reflect all HCAs’ skills, but specifically those which directly impact on inpatients’ daily experiences and in particular the relationship between HCAs and patients. Ward Stars relates to official competencies such as the Ten Essential Shared Capabilities, Knowledge and Skills Framework and National Occupational Standards in an informal way. Staff can cross-reference the criteria for Ward Stars with these to validate and evidence their skills.

As part of the Compassion in Practice vision and strategy developed by NHS England, the ‘6Cs set out the values and behaviours that are at the heart of compassionate care and therefore naturally run throughout Ward Stars.

The Cavendish Review

The Cavendish Review is an independent report into Healthcare Assistants and Support Workers in the NHS and social care settings. This highly validating account of the “heroic” work of HCAs proposes a Certificate of Fundamental Care. The professional development and recording of skills involved in Ward Stars fits perfectly with the Cavendish review approach and recommendations.

e. Evidence base

There is a strong evidence base for Ward Stars, most of which is found in Wardipedia. In particular, the rationale for a validation and professional development initiative for HCAs and its structure and contents are influenced by:

More Information

Foreword by Nic Higham

Foreword by Marion Janner


HCA Skills

Benefits to patients

Download the Ward Stars pack

Read about the IMAGINE Stars