Emma Cullingford started as the Patients’ Council Facilitator in October 2023. She updates us about recent meetings. Previous updates are from her predecessors.
November 2023 – Emma Cullingford starts in her new role
This month was my second Patients’ Council as I’m settling into my new role as the Participation Officer at PAVO. Myself and John, our Patients’ Council volunteer, have met some lovely people and had good conversations about how people’s experiences of staying on Felindre Ward can be improved.
Our meetings have been quiet with only a few people coming along but valuable points have been raised that we have been able to take forward to the ward manager, Rebecca.
A main issue that was highlighted was the absence of a psychologist on the ward and ward staff told us the vacancy had been advertised. In recent success, we’ve been told the job has been filled and a psychologist will be on the ward twice a week starting in December 2023.
Repairs on the roof have recently begun. Whilst this might cause some disruption, there are some positive outcomes which may arise as a result of this much needed work. For example, getting solar panels built on the roof and the chance to improve the internet signal throughout the ward (an issue that’s been reported time and time again)’
Another point that was raised was having artwork on the ward and something interesting on the walls to look at. Following the roof repairs, Rebecca mentioned there will be fresh paint and a project for each bedroom to have a window-size picture. We’re also working with Celf o Gwmpas to arrange weekly art sessions hosted by local artists.
October 2023 – the last update from Owen Griffkin
It was my last Patients’ Council this month as I start my new role in PAVO, and it was probably one of the busiest ones we have had. There was a discussion about the need for more psychological therapies on the ward which is an issue that has been highlighted before. Unfortunately there is a recruitment issue affecting all departments at the moment but it is good that we are gathering feedback to show the importance of this.
There were also some ideas for self-improvement courses/training including cooking and art projects. The Occupational Therapist is attending some training courses soon so that she can deliver some of these.
There were also suggestions for a budget for new patients to help them buy essentials, animal therapy and even a longer term project to set up a smallholding on the land next to the hospital.
All the issues and suggestions were passed on to the ward manager, to which she has responded and the document will be taken to the next Engage to Change meeting by my successor, Emma and the Patients’ Council Volunteer, John.
It has been an eye-opening experience working on this project for over 6 years and seeing the dedication of the volunteers John and Rhydian to go back to the ward and provide this service for people, and the outcomes that they have achieved. I also want to thank the staff for welcoming us and taking on board the criticism and suggestions we collect, and also to the people we speak to for finding time and energy to provide feedback as they are in the midst of their recovery process.
If you would like to know about volunteering for Patients’ Council contact the new Participation Officer at email@example.com
It was my last Patients’ Council this month, and I received a lovely handmade card from the ward on my arrival which was a nice surprise. Another surprise was that we didn’t have our usual table to sit on as it was covered in craft materials which was good to see. We received a lot of suggestions for potential activities from people on the ward including pet therapy, ideas for food workshops and a cool idea for a social media club to involve sharing stories and experiences with other groups whilst on the ward.
I have visited the Felindre Ward with our Patients’ Council volunteer, John, on three occasions over the last three months and we have had some very constructive chats with patients and staff about future activities on the ward. There was a funny incident on our last visit when a staff member got sidetracked on their way to tell patients we were there, meaning we sat there for 20 minutes thinking no-one wanted to see us!
However this gave us a chance to check the internet connection out and we were pleasantly surprised to see that it was quite good in the Recovery Room. We were able to get live tv on our phones and watch Netflix without any issues. It did get more variable in other areas of the ward, but this shows the short term fixes have improved it. There are still longer term infrastructure upgrades planned as well in the future.
We did eventually see a lot of patients on this visit, and heard their experiences on the ward which were mainly personal issues related to their sections so we advised them to speak to the Independent MH Advocate. Sometimes people do get worried about their stay, and having John as a volunteer is invaluable as he has experience of staying on the ward and he is wonderful at helping them understand why they are there, and how it can help them, and he was able to provide a lot of reassurance on his last few visits there. There was also favourable feedback talking about Bronllys in comparison with other Mental Health Wards that people had stayed on, which was encouraging.
We have been having discussions with ward staff and local groups about providing art and music activities on the ward, and are looking at possibilities. Also a local artist delivered three sessions last week as part of a project they are working on, so we will be looking forward to seeing the results of that next time we go. We produced a newsletter for people on the ward, and our aim is to have creative work produced during activities featured in this, as well as displayed in communal areas.
With a new manager on the ward now, they have broached the subject of the proposed gym as well. It would be great to see this progress as it has been talked about for a long time and hopefully we are getting closer to it becoming realised finally.
John receiving his Outstanding Contribution Award from Owen for the Powys Volunteer of the Year Awards
We have had some really well attended meetings recently on the Felindre Ward for Patients’ Council and it’s been really good to hear people’s experiences whilst on the ward. With the weather getting nicer we have had a lot of ideas about exercise that people can do outside, with suggestions such as Ordnance Survey maps, or specially created maps with local walks on. There has been a lot of support for a possible small gym, or at least some equipment people can use on the ward and this is something that has been in planning for a long time. Hopefully as there is now some space on the ward due to the smoking room being closed this will happen soon.
We heard that there may be a CItizens’ Advice Bureau advisor attending the ward regularly again and this was a huge help for people when it was in place before as debt/money or housing issues can impact seriously on someone’s mental health, and hinder their recovery whilst on the ward.
We also discussed maybe doing an appeal for new books to put in the patient library so will look to do an appeal for this in the future, and have been working with the Occupational Therapist on some ideas around online learning on the ward, e.g. Open University free courses. Another idea was for Lego bricks for some hands-on mindful crafts that can be done at any time.
We met the new Ward Manager, Rebecca Stringer, at the latest meeting at the end of May and spoke to her about patients’ issues and how we can work together in the future. Rebecca has a lot of experience in different areas of Powys Mental Health and we are looking forward to working with her in the future.
Penny Gripper (Mental Health Partnership Officer, Powys Teaching Health Board), John Lilley (Individual Representative) and Rebecca Stringer (Felindre Ward Manager, PTHB)
It has been a quiet few months for the Powys Patients’ Council as we have had to cancel a couple of meetings due to snow, illness and staff leave. However we finally managed to get to Bronllys at the end of March and meet the new Ward Manager, Rebecca and welcome her into the post.
It was good to see progress on some of the issues we have highlighted over the past few years. The radiators in the bedrooms are currently being replaced, and smaller improvements to the internet access are taking effect. We also heard at a recent Engage to Change meeting that Citizens’ Advice Bureau were hoping to restart services on the ward which is wonderful news, and is something that volunteer John Lilley has campaigned for throughout his time on Patients’ Council.
At the meeting itself we spoke to 3 people about their recent experience on the ward and highlighted 13 issues to the ward manager. Some of these included ideas for a gym, craft requests, exercise requests including bikes, and comments about continuity of care when working with agency staff.
We will be back on the ward after Easter when we might have a new volunteer!
The Powys Patients’ Council has visited the Felindre ward twice since the last eBulletin, and talked to a number of people on the ward about their experiences whilst they have been staying there. We have had negative and positive feedback about the current menu offered, with a countywide menu being introduced in all PTHB sites that has been designed with nourishment and allergies in mind. This has probably led to some issues around choice so we will continue to gather comments and pass them on.We also got a lot of interest in a potential gym on the ward and we would be keen to see this progress over the next year. Unfortunately it isn’t as easy as just buying an exercise bike and chucking it in the old smoking room, and there are a lot of health and safety issues being looked at, plus staff may need training in how to use the equipment.
We have also reported some WiFi issues, and recently had an update from the Technical department about some short term improvements they have made. The longer term infrastructure improvements are also in the pipeline but we will continue to lobby for this to be a priority. Other issues covered included warmth on the ward, positive feedback for staff and also some previously reported issues around smoking times were addressed. People have noticed an improvement since the new activities manager started their role as well.
FInally we were sorry to hear that Greg Luetchford, the current ward manager, was leaving his post soon. We wish him well in the future and look forward to working with the next manager in the New Year.
The volunteers stressed again the importance they place on the Citizens Advice Bureau service being easily accessible on the ward, and noted that the Psychologist role was currently vacant. This role had been very beneficial for patients and staff, and hopefully the position will be filled soon. The new activities co-ordinator has started and people on the ward responded positively to the difference this is making, especially at evenings and weekends.
The time we have been able to spend on the Felindre Ward has been restricted to one online session since the last report, due to heath and safety protocols around COVID-19. We were pleased to learn that one of the main issues brought up recently around smoking times being scheduled hourly has been addressed. The doors to the smoking area are always open now, and people can smoke when they want. One outcome of this is that some people reported that they are actually smoking less than before as they don’t feel that they have to take up the option of the hourly allotted times. Previously people might have thought they would ‘miss out’ on their chance to smoke if they didn’t take advantage of every opportunity to smoke, but now it is open they actually smoke less.
There were also positive reports about the psychologist on the ward, and the impact it has on people’s moods in the mornings after sessions, and also people have been enjoying activities provided by the Occupational Therapy team.
We have also passed on some comments from CADMHAS, who provide an advocacy service on the ward, about their access to patients and the notice that they receive re: multi-disciplinary meetings. Discussions are ongoing about ways in which this can be improved both in the short term, and longer term plans. We will be adding an item to the agenda for the next Engage to Change meeting so this can be discussed by the service user and carer reps who attend.
We will be visiting the ward again next week and are once more looking forward to seeing staff and patients again.
After two years we were finally able to get back on to the ward for an ‘in-person’ meeting at the start of May – only for it to be a very sunny day when most people on the ward were enjoying the sunshine outside. However we were able to say hello to a few people and also had a much needed meeting with the ICT team about the WiFI. This was a very productive meeting and an action plan was drawn up that will see improvements immediately to WiFi coverage.
Greg, the Ward Manager, also showed us around the ward, and it was wonderful to see the improvements made since the last time we visited in early 2020.
Also this month we wrote letters of support to the health board management regarding both the Citizens’ Advice Bureau sessions, and the Creative Writing Workshops. We have had numerous good comments from people on the ward about how helpful these have been and have echoed this in our letters of support.
We will be continuing to offer one monthly online meeting, and one monthly ‘in-person’ meeting to people on the ward.
In the last month, we have held one Patients’ Council session where we spoke to two people currently staying on the ward. We heard some recurring issues that we have heard at previous meetings, namely the poor Wi-Fi and some issues around the food on offer. We are continuing to work with the ICT ( informations and communications technology) team and highlight issues to them, and they had made some adjustments on the day we held our meeting so hopefully some of these improvements will be noticeable now. The food issues have been brought up since a new menu was introduced to fall in-line with new allergy regulations, but as it has been mentioned a few times, we will be bringing this to the attention of ward management. Other than that, feedback has been positive – the psychologist has been a big help to people, and there are daily mindfulness sessions at 9am. This is helping people have a positive and calming start to the day. A student psychologist, Baz, has written a blog going into more detail on this which you can read here. Also activities got a positive response again and now the weather is better hopefully there will be more outdoor opportunities. We have also started producing a regular newsletter and including creative work that has been produced during creative activities in this. We still don’t have a definite date to return to the ward but as Covid regulations are relaxed elsewhere hopefully it will be very soon.
Patients’ Council held their first meeting of the year last week and it was great to catch up with what has been happening on the ward since Christmas. We spoke to 3 people currently staying on the ward and they shared their experiences and ideas. Unfortunately the Wi-Fi still seems to be an issue which is very important for people on the ward, especially during Covid. There were also concerns raised around food allergy labelling and smoking outdoors which we have passed on to staff and will also highlight in our report to the Mental Health Planning and Development Partnership. At the start of the meeting we were introduced to the new psychologist on the ward, Debbie Hartwell, and the ward manager, Greg, outlined some of his plans to improve staff wellbeing. Look out for more on this in a future blog! There were positive comments about the activities happening at the moment. The creative writing workshops have started and people are really enjoying them. Patients’ Council is producing a monthly newsletter now which features some of the pieces of writing created during these sessions. The first issue will be handed out on the ward this week. It was also good to hear about the new activities coordinator role that is currently in the midst of recruitment, and also the addition of new staff in other positions on the ward. A lot of issues raised recently are due to unavoidable staff shortages that are being echoed in all areas of health and wellbeing, so any increase in staff is good news. PAVO also collected some unsold mens’ clothes from Ashfield Community Enterprise earlier this month, and dropped them off at the ward after the old stock ran out. Staff on the ward like to keep a number of items in stock just in case someone needs them during their stay. We’d like to say a big thank you to Ashfield for their donation. Finally we were very pleased to welcome back an old face with Rhydian Parry returning as a volunteer after a short break. Hopefully it won’t be long until we can actually go onto the ward in person and speak to people there, and also see the improvements made over the last two years.
Since September we have held three Patients’ Council meetings with people on the Felindre Mental Health ward, all virtual/online and recorded 26 different items in our issues log, shared with ward management. The feedback is generally positive still, with a lot of praise for staff coping in difficult situations brought about by COVID. There is a new psychotherapist working on the ward who is delivering mindfulness sessions which people have said have been very helpful. They are also hoping to start creative writing sessions led by Emma Benyon, who has delivered similar sessions for Mid and North Powys Mind. Alongside the pottery workshops this will provide regular activity for people on the ward, supplementing the programme devised by Millie Griffiths, the Occupation Therapist. Issues raised include the current lack of protected one-to-one time with staff for patients which is due to staffing issues at present. The ward isn’t immune to winter pressures felt throughout health and social care presently, and the ward manager is aware of the importance of these sessions. There is ongoing recruitment to fill currency vacancies so hopefully this improves soon. We are still looking for a female volunteer to provide diversity in our group of listeners and will continue to advertise this position. In the interim, Sarah Dale – the Mental Health Service User Rep, has volunteered to be available if anyone on the ward requests a female to speak to. PAVO have been asked to help source shoeboxes for people on the ward to make ‘soothe boxes’ which contain personal items that people can use to improve their wellbeing. We are in touch with some schools who collect them for Xmas projects to see if we can get their unused boxes. Finally the ward is making progress on the ‘Star Wards’ scheme, which provides a framework to improve mental health wards. Patients’ Council have supported this initiative since it was suggested and the volunteers are very pleased to see it in action. Hopefully soon we can visit the ward ourselves to see how it is working.
The last Patients’ Council was at the end of September and we started off by (virtually) meeting the new ward manager, Greg Leutchford. It was really good to hear some of his ideas for the future of the ward, and he is looking forward to working with the Patients’ Council in the future. Some of the positive news from the ward includes a new SmartTV in the lounge area, that will be connected to the internet soon. This will be great for offering more choice for people on the ward, and will help with organising activities such as comedy/theme nights. There are also some new staff roles which are having job descriptions written at the moment and we look forward to these going out to application. A new psychologist has also started on the ward, and we had a lot of comments at earlier Patients’ Council meetings about how beneficial this service was, so to have it back on the ward is great. As well as working one-to-one with people on the ward, there are also regular mindfulness sessions as well. At the last meeting we had 4 people attend and we heard a good variety of experiences and issues that have been fed back to the new ward manager. There were comments on the new menu that is being adapted to fall in line with new allergy guidelines, some building maintenance issues, comments about staffing levels through staff absences due to COVID isolation and some general comments about activities including some requests for indoor gym equipment when the weather is bad. We also discussed the importance of linking up with organisations such as Mid and North Powys Mind, Brecon Mind, Ponthafren and Ystradgynlais MInd so that people can gain skills and confidence, and maybe continue some of the activities they enjoyed on the ward once they leave. Finally one of the most positive things to come out of the meeting was that we have booked in the first ‘in-person’ meeting since January 2020 so we will be attending the ward at the end of October to speak face to face with people on the ward. We are very much looking forward to this as, while the virtual meetings are fine, they don’t come close to being able to sit with someone and discuss their experiences.
The last two Patients’ Council meetings have not been held as no-one wanted to see us at the designated time. However that doesn’t mean we haven’t received any feedback as people have been filling in paper forms instead, detailing their experiences on the ward. With the gorgeous weather we assume that when we have the scheduled meeting everybody is outside enjoying the sunshine, and partaking in the gardening activities organised by Millie, the Occupational Therapist. Millie has taken photos of these activities and written a short blog so watch this space for that. As mentioned above we still receive written experiences. In fact, during July we were able to add 30 separate issues that people wanted to share with the management team. These have been added to a new issues log document that will be discussed at future Engage to Change meetings. It is important for us to be able to offer different ways for people to share their experiences on the ward. During lockdown we have had to start the online service, and now the weather is better, or people may not want to use Zoom-style apps, the written forms are available on the ward at all times. Hopefully it won’t be long until we can resume our visits to the ward to add another way to hear what people on the ward want to say.
As the weather heats up, even in Powys, we have some good news in this month’s update regarding the Bronllys Ward. The windows that back onto the enclosed outdoor area have finally been fixed which means it is safe for people to go outside to smoke, or for recreation, without staff supervision. This is great timing as people can enjoy the good weather, and helps with the plan to turn the current smoking room into a gym. Hopefully this will progress over the next few months as this was a major sticking point in this plan. Also the ward have received funding to increase the frequency of the pottery classes that take place on the ward, so it will now happen twice a week. THis will be really beneficial for people on the ward, especially due to the nature of pottery as they can make, dry, and glaze their work in the space of a week instead of 2 or 3 weeks as was the case previously. We also hope to have creative writing classes delivered on the ward soon and have had a lot of people request this in our meetings so this is more good news. There will also be a new ward manager joining soon so we will be working closely with them to suggest some other long term measures which have been suggested by people, including swimming, comedy DVD evenings and also to raise issues that have been flagged, for example broken signs, faded paint on the stairs and possible activities. If you have stayed on the Felindre Ward at Bronllys before and would like to volunteer to be a Patients’ Council listener, please get in touch with PAVO’s Participation Officer Owen Griffkin at owen.griffkin(at)pavo.org.uk
Since the turn of the year we have continued to offer Patients’ Council feedback sessions online, and luckily the dodgy Powys internet has held up most of the time. We have held 5 sessions, and received over 35 separate pieces of feedback from people on the ward with suggestions ranging including replacing individual sachets of condiments with bottles, to setting up a wellbeing library with self-help books to aid recovery. We also receive issues that people raise about their time on the ward, and these have been passed on to the current manager of the ward and shared with the Mental Health Planning and Development Partnership. Carol Woodhouse, the ward manager, recently left the ward, and there will be a new manager recruited soon. Also Powys CItizens Advice Bureau recently started weekly surgeries using Attend Anywhere. This came about from feedback suggested by the volunteers, John and Rhydian. This will provide welcome relief to people on the ward from debt and benefit issues, and hopefully take some worry away from people to aid their recovery in the long term. At the most recent session, last week, we were also told that the windows on the inner garden area are now being fixed and made safe for patients. This could open up a lot more opportunities for leisure activities, including freeing up the current smoking room for a gym, which would be a wonderful way for people to stay fit and healthy whilst on the ward. Finally, we would like to recruit a female volunteer to the Patients’ Council who has experience of being a patient on Felindre Ward and who can attend online meetings every 2 weeks. If you would like to know more about exactly what this would entail, please contact Owen Griffkin at owen.griffkin(at)pavo.org.uk
Felindre Ward garden – before improvements were made
As February crashes into view and Spring edges closer we are continuing to deliver Patients’ Council meetings for people staying on the Felindre Ward virtually through video conferencing. The benefit of this is increased meetings, so we look to hold two a month at present. We held the first meeting of the year last week, and it was very interesting to hear how people on the ward are coping with Covid restrictions. Cooking activities have to be done one-to-one with an OT so this allows people to cook a dish of their choice, and there are still Pottery lessons happening regularly. There was positive feedback about staff again and concerns raised about having people with varying degrees of mental health distress on the ward. Unfortunately due to the nature of an acute mental health ward this is unavoidable at present but we can help look at ways and ideas to mitigate this in the future.
Facilities wise, the smoking shelter is now ready for use, and this should be happening soon but unfortunately a long-standing issue with the windows has not been fixed yet. The outside areas have had a good tidy-up by staff and people on the ward ahead of planned gardening projects for this year, and we had another good meeting with the Green Minds Project that is running in Brecon. The next stage is to look for funding for a project that could happen in the grounds next to the ward that would allow people on the ward the opportunity to get involved in gardening activities whilst on the ward. We will be consulting about how this will look so if you have been on the ward before and would like to get involved in this consultation please email owen.griffkin(at)pavo.org.uk.
Felindre Ward garden after improvements, including new smoking shelter
We have continued to hold Patients’ Council meetings during the Covid restrictions by moving the meetings online. This has allowed us to increase the frequency of planned meetings to fortnightly. There haven’t been many issues related to Covid-19 raised, and the subject matter has remained as it was before restrictions began. People have reported less opportunities for exercise and we are continuing to work with the Health Board on the viability of gym equipment on the ward. We have also set up a link with the Green Minds Ecotherapy project based at Brecon Mind, and the Occupational Therapist will take people to Brecon to take part in the sessions there. We are also exploring the possibility of extending the project so that it takes part on the hospital site which would be ideal. There is a permanent Psychotherapist on the ward now, and they are conducting regular mindfulness sessions and promoting restful sleep, without tablets where possible, and one-to-one EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) sessions which are proving very effective with patients. The plan for the future of Patients’ Council is exploring how we continue as normality returns and hopefully continuing to offer online meetings alongside face-to-face meetings for a blended service that is flexible to people’s needs.
It’s working well meeting online. You still get to have quite a long chat with the people on the ward. Some of the recent issues include:
- The view from the window wasn’t great as the fence in the garden was poorly maintained. The area has now been turned over to an Occupational Therapy Gardening Group. We’re looking at partnering with local organisations on this project. We’re also hoping to raise some charitable funds for raised beds and a greenhouse which would be great.
- Someone else said that they really like it on the ward. “It’s very clean and the staff have been brilliant. Nice room to sleep in.” And they enjoyed the available activities.
- From the Suggestion Box on the wall (which can be used at any time between Patients’ Council meetings) came a request for access to music.
- One of the patients asked about volunteering in the garden after being discharged – so there is a volunteer pathway being set up
- Another patient said “I cannot overstate the amount of work these people do for me, they don’t get paid enough.”
- The pottery sessions have restarted – the tutor is now coming back onto the ward and that’s been a really helpful activity for everyone there.
- People have been asking for lighter, more appropriate books to be available on the ward so this is something we’re working on.
In future we may have an “on-demand” or “appointment” service as well as returning to face-to-face meetings once it is safe to do so as it has been good having online meetings. This also makes it easier for us to expand the Patients’ Council service to other areas in Powys. One of our Patients’ Council volunteers Rhydian Parry added:
- Money has been approved for gardening equipment which opens up another opportunity for an activity for patients.
- There’s also a new microwave and new table and chairs in the OT kitchen.
- There’s now a locum psychologist on the ward for three months doing three days a week to see how it goes. They’re doing group sessions and 1 to 1 sessions as well as mindfulness.
- Had a comment that the doors bang a lot, keeping people on edge. Sharp sudden noises aren’t good.
- Film nights now happen in the games room which is good as we’ve had quite a few comments in the past about there being a lack of activities at night and on weekends which can lead to boredom.
- I’ve also donated some Xbox 360 games to the ward on behalf of patients council as they had a console but only had one game. I’m going to ask around my friends to see if anybody else has suitable games to donate as well.
An update from Rhydian Parry, PPC volunteer, this month: As you can imagine Patients’ Council hasn’t been able to meet with patients on the ward with COVID going on. We have secured a laptop for use to hold virtual meetings, however we encountered some technical issues while trying to use it for the first time a couple of weeks ago. We think this is down to the ward having a poor internet connection. We did get some feedback through paper forms that patients filled in and these have been really useful. The ward has been quiet over the lockdown period, usually below half capacity and anecdotal evidence (eg from the Occupational Therapist and the forms filled in by patients) shows this has had a positive effect on people’s wellbeing. The ward is eligible to apply for additional funding through Frontline Leadership Support Service to enhance the wellbeing of NHS staff, volunteers and patients impacted by COVID19. Patients’ Council was consulted on this and we agreed with the OT that gardening equipment and raised flower beds/planters would be a priority as this comes up a lot during meetings. Electronic devices for better communication between patients and family and friends, or care coordinators who cannot come to the ward, was identified as another area that could benefit from funding. Paints and brushes to do a mural and card making supplies were also mentioned. General ‘successes’ include getting a smoking shelter installed in the quadrant area and expediting repairs on the OT kitchen and broken window in the recovery room. Turning the old smoking room into a gym is still on the list of planned jobs but with COVID this has been put on hold. We will pick this up again soon as things start to settle down. Having a permanent OT on the ward is a relatively new development and has so far been very positive, although again COVID has stopped us interacting with her as much as we could have. There is also good news in that the ward will be joining the Star Wards programme. We suggested this over 2 years ago so it’s progress although a little slow.
Due to lockdown rules we have been unable to hold Patients’ Council meetings in person on the ward so we are setting up an online service at the moment. This will take the form of Zoom/Skype sessions using a laptop in the recovery room on the ward which will allow us to have the volunteers taking part and keeping the confidential aspect of the meetings. Once lockdown is over we will look at continuing some of the online provision so that we can have more regular meetings and be available if somebody wants to pass on an issue outside of normal meeting times. One of the advantages of this is that some people might only be on the ward for a few days. Previously they may have missed the monthly meetings, but with online meetings available we will be able to capture more opinions and experiences.
Powys Patients’ Council is not currently meeting due to the Covid-19 outbreak. The mental health ward is continuing to run a regular timetable of activities including using Just Dance on the Wii, using yoga and relaxation videos online and making sure they follow the ‘Body Coach’ online videos for physical exercise. At the moment the outdoor area is having an outdoor smoking shelter built to comply with the forthcoming legislative changes around smoking in public places. They are planning some raised beds as well for the outdoor area and would love some advice from keen gardeners on how to do this. If you have any ideas please let me know by emailing owen.griffkin(at)pavo.org.uk
There’s a big change this month as we are changing the day of the Patients’ Council to Thursday starting this week. This is to make sure we are on the ward at the same time as the ward manager who has training on Wednesdays now. The last meeting at the end of October saw some issues raised about the Recovery Room being out of use due to a broken window. We passed on our concerns to the Estates department as this is a vital resource for people on the ward. We also had feedback about the quality of the bed linen which has also been forwarded to the relevant department. It was also noted that people there felt they were treated with care and comfort by the staff and access to an advocate was available and easy. It was brought to our attention that certain information sheets were mentioned in the ‘Welcome Pack’ that aren’t available any more so we will look at getting this updated, and we are working with the ward and the Particpation Officer for the Mental Health Partnership Board on this.
We experimented with a new format for the meeting this month, and also a new venue, as the recovery room was temporarily out of action. This meant we sat in the main common space which led to more group discussions. The tray of cupcakes helped as well! The recovery room being out of action was one issue raised, and this is hopefully in hand and back in use by now. We had requests around WiFi connection and access to devices so we will be looking at how this develops.The health board has a strong firewall, as you would expect from a large organisation that is reliant on IT, and this can cause restrictions to content that people on the ward can access. Maybe as mobile WiFi becomes more advanced we can look at an independent network. Another issue was a request for bird feeders out in the front. We had added some with the help of the League of Friends committee at Bronllys so we were surprised to hear they had gone. We were told this was due to concerns from previous patients about vermin, so we are researching a solution to this age-old problem.The was also concerns about the set times for smoking ( currently 15 minutes every hour) and the response was that this is due to health and safety and staffing issues. We will have to monitor if this will change once the new indoor smoking ban comes into being and how smoking breaks will work then. There were two other maintenance issues raised, one of which was being fixed as we left, which is a quick turnaround. The Occupational Therapy kitchen issues, which had led to it being out of use for a few months have been fixed. We will be back for the next Patients’ COuncil at the end of October, when there is likely to be a new Occupation Therapist in position on a permanent basis. We hope this role will mean that there is a quality programme of activities on the ward and will help to support this in any way that we can.
The main issues at the latest Patients’ Council were mostly around noise from doors, and the kitchen currently being out of use to patients due to a leak. This is a problem as the kitchen is a source of many of the activities for patients, and is vital in assessing people’s independence throughout their recovery. We will be sending these points to the relevant departments and will post any actions here. The next Patients’ Council meeting will be on the 21st August and we are going to change the way we run the meetings. At the moment myself and the two volunteers, Rhyd and John, will sit in the recovery room and wait for people to come in and discuss their issues on an individual basis. In the future, we feel that it might be conducive to make meetings more like a group forum so that we can actively discuss people’s experience on the ward and get a consensus. At the end of the group session we will stay around if anyone has private topics they want to discuss. We will also be bringing lots of cake! I also had a meeting with Kirsten Davidson (Professional Lead for Occupation Therapy Mental Health) and Bethan Stallard (Occupational Therapy Support Worker) to discuss what we want to focus on in regards to activities on the ward. The priorities will be gym equipment, arts and crafts, music classes and yoga and wellbeing exercises, and we will be making sure we ask people on the ward for their ideas as we plan this. We were also discussing how people with lived experience, especially experience of staying on the Felindre Ward, can be really useful for people who might be there now, or in the future. If you would like to get involved in this, please get in touch with us by emailing owen.griffkin(at)pavo.org.uk or ringing 01597 822191.
Patients’ Council has continued to provide a monthly listening/feedback service for people currently staying on the Felindre Ward at Bronllys Hospital. We recently said goodbye to the Ward Manager, Lisa Hale, and we wish her all the best in her new role and thank her for her help in ensuring patient voice is listened to. The new Ward Manager is Carol Woodhouse, who has previously worked on the ward, which has made the transition easier. We had some really good ideas for activities on the ward, including graded walking activities, knitting, cycling and even visits from animals. We have discussed the issue of vaping or eCigarettes with people on the ward and staff and will continue to look at this issue, especially with a potential ban on smoking on the ward. We also had concerns raised about a disparity between staff members when it came to stipulated return times given to people, and this will be looked at in a staff meeting. The next patients’ council will be on June 26th.
Yoga classes have begun regularly on the Felindre Ward at Bronllys Hospital thanks to the Patients’ Council. Monday 1 April saw the first session led by Pete and Cori from Wye Valley Iyengar Yoga which was attended by staff members and people staying on the ward. The feedback was great, and the sessions will be continuing weekly. The sessions came about after suggestions at a few Patients’ Council meetings to have a yoga session to help with mindfulness, wellbeing and physical health, and we found out about the Iyengar Yoga Development Fund. This fund was set up to fund teachers to work with people who would not normally be able to afford or access yoga classes and would benefit a great deal from the positive outcomes of regular yoga practice. The bid was successful and there will now be a yoga workshop every Monday, to hopefully get people’s weeks off to a good start. We will be visiting one of the sessions soon to chat to Pete from Wye Valley Iyengar Yoga and Millie, who is the Occupational Therapist on the ward, to find out how it is benefitting people on the ward.
Unfortunately January’s Patients’ Council meeting was a victim of the weather so we had to postpone but we continue to work with the staff at Felindre Ward to explore new possibilities for activities for people staying on the ward including looking into weekly yoga sessions with a local practitioner. We have submitted a bid for 100% funding of this. We have also set up a working group to research the practicalities of installing some gym equipment within the building exclusively for patient use. We will be back on the ward again this month with the next session scheduled for 20th February.
The Mental Health Regional Planning and Development Partnership is about to submit its annual report, and the Felindre Ward Patients’ Council was asked to summarise their activity for the year. It’s a good opportunity for us to take stock of what has been achieved and share this publicly. The Patients’ Council has continued on Felindre Ward at Bronllys with monthly meetings attended by two volunteers, John and Rhydian. Activities have been the main issue of concern brought up by patients on the ward, and as a result we are currently exploring the possibility of regular yoga sessions, an on-site gym and working with the new Occupational Therapist on creative opportunities involving external practitioners. The council were involved in a ‘tidy-up’ of the veterans’ garden next to the ward before a Remembrance Service and hopefully there will be opportunities for patients to continue to assist with the upkeep of this area. There was a meeting with the Citizens Advice Bureau to look at establishing regular surgeries on the ward to assist with patients’ benefit and financial concerns and the council consulted on the Welsh Government’s Smoke-free premises and Vehicles (Wales) Regulations 2018. Finally the council suggested having bird feeders installed outside the windows, and the Bronllys League of Friends has agreed to fund this. There is a Christmas party on December 12th on the ward which we are looking forward to attending, with lots of nice party food prepared by patients.
What an interesting summer that was in Powys as we veered from a heatwave, straight into the wet August that seems to be the norm here nowadays. We held two meetings since the last update, in July and August and maybe the weather had something to do with the issues raised at the Patients’ Council meetings as activities were high on the list again. Patients would like to see more outdoor activities, with gardening mentioned as a possibility and hopefully this is something we can work on and put in place for next growing season. There are a number of gardens on the site at Bronllys and we have already looked at ways of involving patients in the upkeep of these in the future. Another good idea was a bird feeder in the vicinity of the ward, which I think would be great. Maybe patients could help make one as a project. Somebody raised the viewpoint that it is sometimes hard to have integration between ages and sexes on the ward, as different attitudes and opinions can sometimes clash. Tolerance and empathy can be difficult enough when you are at your best, so when you are in crisis on a mental health ward it can amplify differences even more. I think the ‘quiet room’ on the ward helps as it gives patients a chance to spend time in a place that is away from others. We always get positive comments about the staff and the food at Patients’ Council, which continued at these meetings. Finally, at the July meeting, we met with Stuart Chadbourne, from Powys Citizens’ Advice Bureau, to discuss ways of getting patients access to CAB services. This is vital to ensure we can allay any fears about finances and benefits whilst people are on the ward. Once this is up and running we will write a further blog detailing how this is working. The next Patients’ Council is on October 24th.
It was a sweltering day for June’s Patients’ Council meeting and the ward was close to capacity. This was the first Patients’ Council session since we had left a suggestion box on the ward, so there were more issues than usual to deal with. Having the suggestion box means we can address issues or concerns that we might have previously missed from people who have had short stays on the ward. It can also follow that these might have been dealt with already, as was the case with a note about the heating being on in rooms at night. Another note praised the caring environment and professional staff which the Patients’ Council were pleased to pass on to the new permanent Ward Manager, Lisa Hale…. Read more here.
This was a very quiet meeting, as the ward wasn’t very busy this week. We spoke about the anxiety felt by existing patients when a new patient comes in. This might be a good topic to look at in future meetings with more attendees as it can be unsettling. A new patient did arrive, and you could see the short-term effect it had on the ward. Jane Cooke had a meeting with the ward manager before the Patients Council meeting and she mentioned that they had been looking into implementing Star Wards on the ward. This is a programme run by the charity Bright which provides 75 ideas and examples for mental health staff to help patients make the best use of their time whilst on a ward. A lot of the examples have been brought up as issues in previous Patient’s council meetings, e.g. access to computers, wifi, gym equipment, entertainment. This is really encouraging and hopefully the ward will be signing up soon.
A regular topic at our meetings is the level of activity on the ward, and whilst we heard from some people that time can pass slowly at Felindre Ward, in recent times the Occupational Therapists have introduced a system whereby the patients themselves can choose activities two afternoons each week. We have also been asked to see what people think of the idea of having staff uniforms on the ward, so that they always stand out and are instantly recognisable. We’re also investigating a proposal, now that wifi is fully up and running, for some ward owned tablets to be acquired. We think it would help patients without their own devices to stay connected.
Whilst work is being completed on the outdoor space, along with the section 136 unit being added to the ward, there are some odd jobs that can be done. This week a couple of patients helped to paint a bench outside, and there is talk of a mural to cover the new and enormous fence. There will be patient involvement on this. One of the patients talked about having a broken CD player, but that they wanted to hear music on the ward. We’re suggesting that some sort of stereo equipment be acquired. A recent development on the ward is that mindfulness is being offered on a weekly basis, led by a member of staff.
Gardening has begun as an activity for patients, and this month we heard about a trip to the garden centre to choose plants and tools. This is a welcome activity in the summer, and as we have mentioned before, one of the challenges for patients is to try and fill the day in a meaningful way. There are a number of things that can be done, and one patient who we met was keen on both art and writing. This month we’re also looking at making links for patients who are able to visit local groups to pursue their hobbies.
For quite some time we’ve been looking at ways to support the request for more things to do on the ward. The task of providing a meaningful day alongside safety and security is a difficult one, and this month’s session brought us into contact with some patients who had taken to following yoga classes on Youtube – which is a solution we like. Another positive piece of news is that although we had more requests for proper talking therapy on the ward, it has developed very recently that a member of staff who is trained in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy is now running a group once per week – exclusively for in-patients. Finally, the ward will be managed by Powys Teaching Health Board from June 1st onwards.
We had a relatively quiet meeting this month with just a couple of patients – and as it happens there was a good level of content with ward food and other details of daily life on the ward. To explain the situation briefly, one of the patients was suffering from psychosis and had been given anti-psychotics. They described the feeling of these drugs as ‘a deadening one’, but still had a very good level of spark and vitality, and they interacted with us keenly. The anti-ligature work in the garden has commenced, and this means that not only can a smoking area be placed outside now, but that the space freed inside can be used for gym equipment. Also, and importantly, gardening can become an activity for patients before too long.
Our regular meeting with patients at Felindre Ward this month involved patients who spoke about a small matter, but one that raised the issue of which rules on the ward are set in stone and which are subject to staff discretion. To explain, we were discussing being allowed to smoke after lunch, and this can be subject to staff availability and whether people have finished eating. Another matter that was on the same theme was the issue of what people who struggle to sleep can do at night time. In one’s own home, a person has the option of getting out of bed – but on the ward this is generally not the done thing. However, as our own former patients advised, there was usually a common sense approach taken by night staff provided nobody else was disturbed. Finally, our patients this month spoke of having no money or possessions on admission, and the suggestion was raised that small loans are available at this stage. This is being discussed.
Some of the issues we talked about this month included the suggestion that a store of spare clothes should be kept on the ward for visitors who perhaps come in at short notice, or who are waiting for their own clothes to arrive. We also talked about the requirements for access to a ‘normal’ doctor on the ward, as sometimes there are concerns over the physical health of patients. There will soon be a new system where possessions belonging to patients are recorded to avoid any loss or confusion. Two of our other concerns at the moment include the level of activity on the ward and the level of one to one time with staff. The current ward manager explained to us that on shift staff are allocated to particular patients so that people can have that one to one connection.
The patients we met this month talked to us openly about their time in hospital and the challenges of being sufficiently stimulated whilst there. One person mentioned that smoking and sleeping were two important aspects for them, as despite the best efforts of the two Occupational Therapists there is still lots of down-time to fill. There is a Community Walk in Brecon which some patients attend, and this seems popular – as does the regular pottery workshop. The on ward internet access is now good and reliable. This month also saw a visit to the ward from various health board officials accompanying Eluned Morgan AM, and we also had the chance to talk about our work with these guests.
In recent times the patients who we’ve met have been relatively vocal and positive about their time on the ward. We had a slightly different meeting this month, with some quieter patients who were curious as to what we had to offer. Trying to nurture a person’s voice at a low point in their lives is no easy task. We spoke to the ward manager about how quiet the patients had been – and how unusual this was. When we talked further, we were reminded of how the hope was that the ward will be quiet over Christmas – with people able to be treated at home whenever possible. No predictions are being made however, and the ward is preparing a party for in-patients next week which we are pleased to be going along to.
This month’s feedback was almost entirely positive and we had a meeting during which we were completely blown away by the strength of character of the current in-patients. If lived experience was worth money, they’d all be billionaires. Some of the good things we heard about on the ward was a feeling of absolute safety and a good level of camaraderie amongst patients. In terms of activity level on the ward we heard of encouraging efforts from staff to facilitate activities and a strong patient led drive to organise board games, art sessions or ping-pong tournaments. The fact that there’s a talented pianist staying at present means that sing-a-longs have become a regular feature of the music room and anyone who doesn’t participate is generally there to listen along.The break from normality and a place of suffering can inspire people to make new plans for the future. We were also able to take part in a good level of informal work and participation on the ward today, and we heard first hand of how even wealthy people with large houses and fancy cars can suffer extreme levels of distress. It is worth noting that the ward no longer conducts ward rounds with large numbers of staff discussing one patient in front of them. This is now conducted on a one-to-one basis, although support in completing a pro-forma prior to this is still available. Finally, we were once more impressed with the attitude of the new ward manager Lisa Hale and are content that we can all work well together.
Talking through similar issues with new people at each of our meetings helps us provide some structure with which to guide patients towards expressing what’s on their mind – to help them raise their voice.The trigger at this month’s meeting for a patient to request an advocate, and after we had explained the service, was a joke made by another patient. It seemed to bring a realisation of something, some new direction or purpose. Amongst our group this month were some visitors from a busy ward in Pontypool, who seemed to like Felindre. We heard some good comments and some praise for staff listening skills, with further good comments too about the kitchen activity with the new Occupational Therapist. There is a new acting Ward Manager, who we met with, and we were once more reassured by the energy and enthusiasm of the person in that role and we look forward to working together over the coming months.
This month’s report is by Carla Rosenthal: We had a lively Patient’s Council meeting in September which prompted a patient to remark on the need for physical activities to be available on the ward. Although there is a list of equipment that can be used to organise outside games, some patients on observation cannot go out due to staff constraints. This highlighted the benefit of having a safe and secure outdoor area that enables patients to be able to move freely outside without the requirement of having a member of staff present. Plans are afoot to convert the space behind the ward (currently underused) to a patients’ garden which can be designed, maintained and enjoyed by anyone staying on Felindre Ward. The garden area will have a smoking hut thereby freeing up the internal smoking room which will then be converted into a gym for patient use. Patients’ Council are pushing forward these plans and hope to be able to report positive news soon. Television viewing is a common issue that arises and at this meeting the possibility of having a booking system for patients to choose a particular programme to watch, was brought up. The possibility of having Film Nights was also talked about. There is a need to make it clear that there are laptops available to borrow and DVDs can be watched in the privacy of a patient’s room if requested. A sign will go up on the notice board alerting patients to all the resources available. The new Occupational Therapist is doing a grand job organising activities throughout the day and also for the evening after he has left the hospital. His enthusiasm and positivity in encouraging everyone to have a meaningful and enjoyable stay whilst in Bronllys has been praised by staff and patients. Hopefully, in the near future, music therapy activities will also be available. Details will be released as soon as there is confirmation. Not everyone is aware that they can request the support of an Independent Mental Health Advocate who can assist and advise in a range of issues. Again, this service will be advertised in greater detail on the ward notice board. If any patient who has been released from hospital would like to have a say in how mental health services are run in Powys, please contact PAVO’s Mental Health Team to find out what participation opportunities are available.
We had a very positive session this month, where the voice and ideas of patients was celebrated. We also heard some positive feedback about nurses and the occupational therapists – and in fact there’s a new OT who is very receptive to planning more evening activities. One of the patients asked if we could start a compost heap, and we hope that between us all this will happen soon. It would be great to be able to respond quickly to patients, as some changes on the ward take time to achieve – for example the new gym and the garden we hope to create together one day. We had some more private issues raised, and we were reminded once more of the need to explain things as much as needed to new visitors on the ward. Our colleague Carla Rosenthal suggested we create a ‘Did you know?’ wall in the recovery room with useful tips.
The ward is currently fairly quiet, but we held our meeting and had a few discussions with some patients. One of these patients is a young person who we have seen several times, and they’re now preparing for a new start in a new location and can be seen as full of happiness and positive expectations for life once more. Another person who we met is struggling with being sectioned and with life on the ward. We tried to empathise, and the volunteers spoke about similar feelings that they’d had when they were on the ward. Needless to say the specifics of the situation are being dealt with by an advocate for that patient, and there will be a tribunal in this instance. One issue which is very important that was raised today is what to do when a person wants to practice their religion on the ward. We heard that a religious community had made contact with a specific patient with firm beliefs and practices, and that there was some scope for continuing the fellowship that they had been used to. Finally, we were blown away with the enthusiasm and positivity which came from the new ward manager Lauren Edwards, herself a qualified Dialectical Behaviour Therapist. We really look forward to working together following the good progress under her predecessors Penny Price and Richard Rudge.
As an extra task this month our lead volunteer Rhydian Parry has compiled a list of CDs, DVDs and games equipment held by the ward – useful as a guide for patients who are looking for entertainment. We are very grateful to people who donated DVDs and CDs to the ward and now there is a list of what’s on offer. Our regular meeting was a very positive one and contained a lot of praise for the environment at Felindre, which we passed on to ward management. We heard about nightly scrabble games and table tennis, and the joys of pottery each week. What has also been praised is the camaraderie amongst patients who look out for one another during their stay. Although there have been several discharges this week we also heard an interesting perspective from someone who was really glad of the peace and quiet of the ward and the chance for a rest from their family, whilst they connected with other patients on the ward.
After starting with a discussion of the possible benefits of e-cigarettes in an environment where many people smoke we had a thorough session this month which covered some old and new issues. There was excitement at the forthcoming kitchen activity which is new to the ward, and some praise for the atmosphere on the ward once more. It was mentioned that some of the patients had been playing a lot of card and board games, which is a good sign, and we heard about a game of boules outside when the weather was good. There are one or two areas where it can be useful for patients to ask staff if they need something – for example going outside in the fresh air when the doors may be locked – or having an extra cup of tea in between tea-times. Talking through life on the ward helps us to clarify the good and less good aspects of life there, and in turn our experts by experience (who have spent time there themselves) can pass on some tips..
As our lead volunteer Rhydian Parry said on the way home “…today was a good day for Patients’ Council.” We met with some lovely patients who spoke cheerfully and honestly about their time on the ward, including both what they liked and what they didn’t like so much. We heard about some key issues regarding access to Doctors on the ward and the availability of Community Psychiatric Nurses for ward rounds. Our meeting with the Ward Manager was supported this month by Senior Nurse and former Ward Manager Penny Price, along with Carla Rosenthal (who is covering as PAVO’s Participation Officer). There was a superb atmosphere in the room and we discussed the possibility of converting some outdoor space into a beautiful garden – perhaps with community involvement and certainly with patients involved. We’re pleased that a new Occupational Therapist will soon commence on the ward and from our end we will also be working hard again before our next visit to refine two separate funding bids – watch this space for updates and hopefully some positive news later this year.
We met with some patients today and explored a few individual and a few general issues as best we could. Some of the stresses of being an in-patient were discussed again, and our sympathetic ears and open minds, together with the experience of being on the ward that our volunteers bring, seemed to be very helpful. When ward rounds happen, there is a pro-forma – or a form on which patients can write things down regarding their wishes for treatment. We discussed how this works with people today, and had a further chat about a consultant who had that day offered only a very short appointment to a patient. We think, partly from our own experiences, that writing things down before seeing a doctor or psychiatrist is a useful tool to keep the things you know are important at the forefront of your mind and firmly on the agenda for discussion. Some of what we talked about today was specific to one or two individuals so remains in confidence, but we were also glad that we were able to offer that supportive ear to people whilst gathering our usual few items of essential feedback for ward management. To give one example of feedback this month, we asked that staff continue to be encouraged to help patients in completing the ward round pro-forma.
There are quite a few patients on the ward at present, but we are happy to report that they are as content as can be expected. Our meeting this month was a fairly quiet one. We delivered the first installment of CDs and DVDs for the recovery room and after a brief meeting we had to also content ourselves that we had been available to other patients if they had also had something to say. Admin time is useful, and we are looking ahead to a future meeting with almost the entire Psychology team from the health board next month to discuss our plan to bring more therapeutic work on to the ward. We can’t say too much about that at present but we are optimistic that we will be permitted to seek charitable funding for work to commence on an extended trial period basis. The other news we have for you is that we are looking to begin dialogues above ward management level to finally sort out the lack of internet issue on the ward. We know that this connection with the outside world is vital for some people to maintain contact with friends and loved ones, to educate themselves on their condition and the medications they are being given, to keep up to date with benefit, housing and employment information, to entertain themselves with music and video, and for many other reasons. We hope that a filtered wi-fi service can be brought to the ward without too much delay as the issue has been raised time and time again by our patients and we now have a duty to act purposefully on this.
At our New Year’s meeting some of our patients talked about wanting to hear more music on the ward. Some of them had been present at the Christmas party last year where a small ensemble played beautifully for staff and patients. We also talked about what a difference internet access on the ward would make to in-patients, but this is sadly yet to be rolled out on the ward. Related to this, some patients reported that they would like more newspapers to be available for them to know what is going on around them as they contemplate the difficult process of recovery. With this in mind we phoned round all the businesses in Talgarth and thanks to the goodwill of Glanenig House Care Home their entire batch of Sunday papers will be donated to our ward each Monday. We did hear about another very positive situation this month where staff had made a good work-around for the lack of specialist benefits advice on the ward and we would like to commend them for this. Finally in our round up for January, we had a sensitive discussion with patients and the ward manager about the attitude of busy staff in their daily verbal interactions with patients. I am yet to meet a patient at Felindre Ward who I do not understand or who I have ever had to ask to repeat themselves, but the comment we fielded was that often staff ask people to repeat what they have said, and that this can seem demeaning. We have raised the issue and we have ensured that this indiscretion, although unintended, can act as a reminder to anyone who comes into contact with patients that they must interact with them as equal subjects.
Felindre Ward at present is very quiet, with only a handful of in-patients. Our usual session wasn’t really required, but we did get to have another conversation with the new Ward Manager, Richard Rudge, who’s been promoted from the Home Treatment team. As much of our work is ongoing, we met with Jane Cooke (PAVO Mental Health Team Manager) to develop our plan to increase the level of activities offered on the ward. This has been a recurring theme in our meetings for some time now and we hear of the problem from other Patients Councils too. Our plan is to bring in activity leaders from the voluntary sector, possibly from beyond, and to achieve this we are reaching out to partner organisations to discuss our capacity to hopefully run several small projects that help bring increased meaning and enjoyment to the days of in-patients. Our funding fate is uncertain but we believe that we can put together a very strong case to bring a large number of tangible benefits from a little bit of money. We look forward to speaking to some of you about this in the near future- and please, get in touch with the Mental Health Team at PAVO if you already think you’d have something to offer. If you’re curious but aren’t quite sure why you’d want to – then all I’d say to you is that if my role has highlighted one central thing to me so far it would be this: it’s a huge privilege to spend time with people on that ward.
This month we had a good turnout for our meeting with patients. The mood in the room was overtly positive, which made for a pleasant discussion in general. We talked about a number of on ward and more general issues – the on ward issues being to do with how to peacefully ensure people can all watch things they want on television and another one to do with use of the games room for meetings by staff. We also had a really in depth chat about the attitude of some psychiatrists – and whether they realise that they can seem a bit high and mighty in relation to their patients. In any case we gathered feedback on many issues again this month and we’re also pleased that we made sure that staff who are involved in sectioning people are reminded of what it’s like to be on the other end of this process too.
To give you a taste of this month’s meeting – it could be described as difficult and emotional but ultimately purposeful. Guided by our lead volunteer our listening skills were fully employed and in our capacity as representatives we empathised with a small selection of patients – chipping in with helpful comments wherever we felt we could. At a practical level the issues varied slightly this month, talking about relationships with staff (including special or favourite nurses) and we also aired a topic which may not seem obviously important to everyone. It is to do with cleaners being aware that moving things in a person’s own room – even just to clean the space underneath- can seem intrusive if you are currently feeling vulnerable. Of course, we also listened at length to the underlying feelings present there- of what it’s like to be kept away from your home, your friends and loved ones, and the frustrations of just wanting to be allowed to leave. In terms of our other achievements this month, we delivered two large boxes of used books to the Recovery Room which were generously donated by Builth Wells Community Support. We also brought in new posters advertising our regular presence for staff and patients. Finally, despite learning of a funding ‘brick wall’ with regards to getting benefits advice back onto the ward we have made provisions to raise awareness of the vital role Powys Citizens Advice can play in assisting with benefit claims for people from all walks of life.
At this month’s Patients’ Council we had some new perspectives on some familiar themes. It has to be said that one of the patients who joined us this month is one of the most eloquent and well spoken people I’ve ever met. Food and activity levels were the main topics of conversation, and although it was said that the food is better than on most other wards, people long for variety during their stay. As far as activities go, Rhydian Parry, John Lilley and myself who host Patients’ Council are keen to make progress on the difficulties faced by patients and staff with limited time in getting enough activity on the ward. We discussed having a second television set for peak hours, the possibilIty of more art and craft tutoring (so that people could spend their free time progressing with these skills) and also, from outside the ward, we’re now actively pursuing a donation of used books to further fill the shelves of the Patients’ Council Recovery Room. We hope to have some good news for you next month, in the meantime I would like to take the chance to thank Rhydian and John for welcoming me to their team over these past few months and wish to commend them for their ongoing and tireless work as volunteers – as in truth it makes my role far easier…
Our last two Patients’ Council meetings have involved a variety of themes and some very interesting discussions. One thing that has stood out is how positive in general the feedback on the experience at Felindre Ward has been in comparison to other wards in other areas. We again discussed issues such as food and activity levels and asked people what they thought of plans to install a gym in the current smoking area – which most people like the sound of. Some people have been more content in general than others, and we have liased with staff over the situation for those with specific dietary needs. As it turns out, the catering will be provided from elsewhere soon. We are also chasing up the availability of benefits advice for patients – particularly for those who stay longer term, and hope to make progress on this soon.
Some matters that were discussed in June included the procedure for patients to comment on ward meals. Also, there were some discussions around the proposal to turn the current smoking room into a gym therefore allowing the chance for more physical activity – which itself has increased with the work of occupational therapists. We were told that advocates are now on the ward less often, which is disappointing. Also, some of the practicalities of having full but filtered internet access on the ward were talked about.