Visiting St Ann's

Go to St Ann’s Hospital to celebrate its Lordship Ward becoming the 300th ward of the national ‘Star Wards’ project. David Lammy (MP for Tottenham) is on the visit too.

We start by meeting Marion Janner. Marion is a service user from Haringey and is a vocal campaigner and mover on the Star Wards project. This is a national project started to begin to address one of the great challenges of mental health care – that on an inpatient ward the boredom is enough to drive you to madness. It is totally counterproductive to a therapeutic outcome – and so Star Wards begins to address some of those challenges.

St Ann’s is only at the beginning of its program to generate and implement Star Wards – but judging by the enthusiasm of both staff and patients that I met this will deliver real improvement. I also visited the ‘healthy living’ part of the equation and met patient and trainer in the gym.

St Ann’s has had a difficult recent history in terms of administration at higher echelons – but as they move towards their application for ‘foundation status’ with their new Chair, Michael Fox (who I met later in the day at Parliament – coincidentally) they have hopefully moved onward and upward. And there certainly was a very positive attitude around the wards and the patients and the potential.

Two notes of discord did surface. The first was a desperate plea for me to tell the Government that they don’t want, and can’t cope with, endless new initiatives. They feel that they are barely given time to get a new directive in place and begin to embed it – before it is changed and the next headline initiative rolls in – and it’s all change, thereby never reaching a point of proper implementation and smooth running.

The second was about the service provided by the crisis centre – which deals with emergencies. The problems ranged from being answered by an answerphone (not great if you are suicidal) to being told to ‘pull yourself together’.

As I said, later in the day, I met with the new Chair of the Mental Health Trust who seems very determined to turn St Ann’s into a modern and exemplar service deliverer. There will be a need to sell around half the site to fund the new building etc. My criteria – as I told him – was about what would be provided post development, how real and thorough the consultation would be (we are sick of faux consultations) and so on. St Ann’s is not a great layout for a hospital – but it is friendly and human scale. So – we will see how all this develops over the next period.