“Children are people today”
Frankie Campbell - Head of safeguarding (children) SWLStG. July 2021
As I write, I can hear my neighbour’s twin girls playing in their garden. The sound is musical, the incessant chatter, squeals and laughter could be the silvery tinkle of a mountain stream on a sunny day.
Play is just what children do, whenever we allow them.
Children fill in the spaces in their busy lives with play and play always makes life better.
Covid-19 has brought change and sacrifice to our children’s lives, and they lost freedom and opportunities for social and outdoor play in an unprecedented way.
Culturally, we recognise that play is how children learn and explore, and we often compare and contrast play with the idea of work. Play is understood both as the opposite of work for adults, but also as significant and meaningful as work for children.
However, we now understand that play and mental wellbeing are entwined. Jaak Panksepp, a neuroscientist who studied the evolution of emotion, stated that the opposite of play is not work, it is depression. Panksepp said that the social joy of play in childhood is the basis of lifelong happiness and mental health. Dr Wendy Russell who researches play, says that play buffers children’s anxiety, helps develop their self awareness and ability to control their emotions and thoughts, and builds empathy.
Despite this, many spaces are actively hostile to children’s play. From ‘No Ball Games’ signs, to shopping centres seeking to exclude young people, to speeding cars, to perceptions that any group of young people is a dangerous criminal gang, children’s play opportunities have been systematically reduced. Children today have so much less freedom than I remember as a child able to roam free in the 1970s. We did some silly, naughty things, but we had a lot of fun. (Has anyone under 40 ever played Knock Down Ginger?)
This ongoing developing societal hostility to children’s play has been compounded by the pandemic. The biggest loss during Covid-19 for many children has been the loss of time with friends, time to mess around, time for chatter and games and laughter and playacting and silliness.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted by the United Nations in 1989, which acknowledges the right to play, drew on the work of Janusz Korczak, a Polish paediatrician and principal of a Jewish orphanage, who refused to leave the orphans and died together with them in the Treblinka extermination camp. Korczak wrote of the child’s right to respect, saying “Children are not people of tomorrow; they are people today." Two-thirds of primary children told the Children’s Commissioner they felt lonely during lockdown.
It’s time to reclaim those lost play hours for this generation. My neighbours and I are planning a Children’s Play Day in September. We have permission to close the road for the day, we will block those ratrunning cars with our bins, and let the children rule the street! I can’t wait!
What should we be doing as a mental health Trust to ensure that we put children first and prioritise play?
International Security Officers Day
Catching up with a few of the Trust Security Officers on International Security Officers Day
- 91% found the diary was easy or very easy to use.
- 70-80% found the diary helped track +ve and -ve side effects of their prescribed medication.
- Over 50% said that it helped them take their medication more consistently
Our journey co-creating a new medication diary
Zorka Nikolova, Lead Practitioner Trainer, Recovery College - 14 July, 2021
One of the key messages that we tell our students when they attend the Recovery College’s ‘Understanding Your Medication’ course is ‘If you’re currently taking a medication that doesn’t work for you, go back and ask for something else. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself.’
Good advice, right? And quite empowering to say to someone that, so long as they are able to monitor what works well for them and can explain this to their prescriber, they have the right to choose.
This is where the Medication Diary comes into play. Co-produced by the Recovery College alongside Trust Pharmacists and service users, our aim was to develop a tool that would have a lasting positive impact on medication adherence and compliance by supporting the patient to have an effective dialogue with their prescriber.
The design of the Medication Diary reflected the initial feedback from our students (all current or recently discharged patients), Peer trainers and pharmacists, whose experience and awareness of using similar medication monitoring tools helped shape its user-friendly content and layout.
Speaking to practitioners across the Trust we were really pleased to see how they quickly came to realise what a powerful tool the Medication Diary could be. Then of course Covid-19 happened, and our plans to include face to face meetings between client and prescriber as part of the pilot were no longer an option. Ideally, these meetings would provide the client with the support needed to complete the diary. Without this, we knew we’d have to change tack. Over a period of three months we ran several Q&A sessions via MS Teams with a large group of our students who had all agreed to trial the diary for us.
By supporting our students in this way, providing clear and ongoing communication, we gained a wealth of information and knowledge that really helped shape the final diary design.
The overwhelmingly positive feedback from the pilot therefore was of no surprise to us.
What came through loud and clear was that the more we invest in educating and enabling someone to be more proactive and resourceful in their own care, the more rewarding and effective our role as practitioners can be.
So, now that we’ve achieved our goal of producing a Medication diary that supports an individual to feel empowered in their conversations with their prescribers, what comes next is a widespread marketing campaign to encourage patients and clinicians to take up this new tool. We’re going out to our colleagues in the Trust, GPs and their patients in the community and service users in all five boroughs over the coming months and hope to see the diary make a truly positive impact for all involved. If you're interested in taking a look at the diary it can be downloaded from the College's E-Learning Hub here.
Find out more about the work of the Trust's recovery college here.
Delivering mental health care that works for our communities
Amy Scammell, Director or Strategy, South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust - 14 June, 2021
Much has been written about the impacts of the pandemic, and the challenges the NHS has faced over the past 14 months. We know that there are important lessons to be learnt and that the effects will be felt for some time to come.
As we see renewal and new life all around with Summer just around the corner, there also comes a time to look to the future.
Despite the many challenges the pandemic has presented, at South West London and St George’s our teams have continued working behind the scenes on plans to improve our services in the coming years.
In April our community came together online to hear about the development of modern mental health facilities in Wandsworth, Richmond and Kingston, and we shared more on our plans to improve our services.
If there’s anything we have learnt from the past year, it’s that standing still is not an option. The world around us has changed dramatically and we know that in order to continue to deliver high quality care, our services need to develop.
In this context, the principles of the NHS Long Term Plan – the vision for the future of the NHS – are still as relevant as ever; boosting ‘out of hospital’ care, breaking down barriers between services, delivering personalised, digitally-enabled care and giving people greater control over their own health.
We were delighted to receive news last month that we had secured £2.8m in funding to help transform our adult community mental health services in line with this vision.
This investment marks the beginning of an exciting process of working hand in hand with our communities to improve our services. As we set out do this, we know that we don’t have all the answers. And that’s why, over the next 18 months, we will be bringing stakeholders across South West London together to design new models of care that take local needs into account.
As a leading provider of mental health services, we are at our best when we are responsive to the needs of our communities. This means giving everyone a voice, listening to what really matters to the people we serve, and co-designing care in a way that works for our service users.
Through this work we want to build bridges between services and community provision to help deliver a better experience for patients. We want to address inequalities that exist in our healthcare systems. And we want to reduce waiting times, strengthen transitions between different services and remove barriers between different stages of care.
Underpinning all of this will be a strengthened workforce. This funding will see the launch of a recruitment programme to build out teams across our boroughs, delivering new roles including Nursing Associates, Peer Support Workers and Community Support Workers. Larger and more innovative multi-disciplinary teams will then work hand-in-hand with our partners, patients and carers, to develop new treatment pathways for people in our local communities.
As an anchor in our communities, we aspire to add value beyond the services we provide, including in areas like employment. Supporting our local economy has never been more important, and as one of the largest employers in South West London we are excited to be investing in roles at all levels through this programme. (You can find more information about how to apply to work at SWLSTG here).
For those accessing our services, the new pathways and models of care will help to deliver an NHS that is easier to navigate, that offers flexibility and choice and that works in tandem with other local support. At the end of this road is a system that delivers improved health and wellbeing for people across South West London.
Whilst services will always have a vital role to play, looking beyond to the many things that support our mental health is also really important. To this end, NHS Trusts, Commissioners, Local Authorities and community groups across South London are developing a ground-breaking programme to support the prevention of mental ill health.
Following a listening campaign that has heard from over 5,000 people, this programme will soon bring forward an action plan to tackle key mental health challenges. These include social isolation, low mental health awareness, the digital divide and unemployment - all of which can impact our communities’ health and wellbeing in different way.
As a Trust, our ambition is always to be a centre of excellence, providing safe and effective care; a place service users recommend, where clinicians want to train and where our communities want to work with us. Everything we do is about giving concrete expression to this vision and creating a mentally healthier future for people across South West London.
We don't underestimate the challenges that remain and the long-term mental health impacts of this pandemic, but we look ahead with renewed optimism and resilience in our mission to make life better together.
Talking Mental Health Awareness Week with Jupiter Ward
Ioanna Prifti, Activity Worker, Springfield University Hosptial - 11 May, 2021
With nature the focus for the year’s awareness week, we caught up with Ioanna, a member of the team from Jupiter Ward to find out more about their work and what this week means to them.
Tell us a bit about your role at Jupiter Ward, Ioanna?
I’m the activity worker on Jupiter Ward, which means I co-ordinate and organise therapeutic activities for our service users with the aim of involving, encouraging, motivating and promoting independence and wellbeing. At Jupiter we provide inpatient care for adults who suffer from depression, schizophrenia, psychosis, schizo-affective disorders and other mental health issues.
What does that involve day-to-day?
We work really hard to create an interactive timetable of fun activities to empower service users. A lot of this is run by our amazing volunteers and supervised by other members of the team. A regular day on the ward means that our service users get to participate in games such as bingo, arts and crafts, cooking, baking, music and karaoke, current affairs, a movie afternoon and community meetings. Before the pandemic we’d also organise group gardening, walking groups, creative writing classes, exercise therapy and dog visits. We’re looking forward to getting back to some of these activities safely.
How do the Trust support patients to connect with nature?
Historically we’ve run a really successful gardening project here at Jupiter. We worked really closely with our volunteers to find the best possible ways support and motivate our services users to join a gardening group. It quickly became one of their favourite activities and the feedback was always really positive. It was amazing to see the impact this had in bringing everyone together to create something out of nothing. Some of our services users were monitoring plants growth each day and others were responsible for watering and weeding.
What’s happening next with Jupiter’s gardening programme?
We haven’t been able to be as active with the project during the pandemic but we’re looking forward to reconnecting with our volunteers and relaunching it again very soon. We also have a partnership with charity ShareGarden who run another community garden here at Springfield Hospital that staff and service users are able to visit.
Why does this week mean to you?
Mental Health Awareness Week is a really important opportunity for education. The more we know, the more we can offer – to each other and to ourselves. Knowledge also helps us to understand before we judge, and this can have a really positive impact. Low levels of mental health awareness are something we have to take on as a community. All boats rise with the tide and by working together to educate people across South West London, we can make a real difference.
Do you have a message for people this Mental Health Awareness Week?
People with mental health issues need love and support just as someone with a physical health issues does. I strongly believe that kindness, compassion and knowledge are the most powerful tools we have to break down stigma and help us learn and grow – an ultimately become better people.
Making Life Better Together in 2021
Ian Garlington, Integrated Programme Director, South West London and St George's Mental Health NHS Trust - 30 January, 2021
Preparing for the new year always feels like an opportunity to take a moment to be mindful of the things that we have done in the recent past and consider how to do them in the future with more resilience and greater certainty for all our people.
The challenges have been immense, and it has been heartening to see how our communities have pulled together time and time again throughout the pandemic. Looking back over 2020 it would be understandable to think only of the ways we had to adapt just to keep our services going, but in reality we have done so much more.
The development of Springfield Village is now a year old and the progress is unmissable on-site with new hospitals taking shape at its heart, and the overall layout of the village beginning to emerge. Set to open during 2022, these hospitals will provide a range of inpatient services, designed to deliver the most modern mental health care in the country. Beyond this we look forward to refurbishments in Richmond and Barnes and the development of new facilities at Tolworth. These will give people the best chance to recover in the best environment, and support our staff to deliver the outstanding care our patients deserve from us.
In addition, we are working with our construction partners to bring forward the development of hundreds of new homes, retail facilities and a new 32-acre park for Tooting, creating a new mixed-used community. As we bring Springfield Village to life we are also starting some exciting community engagement projects that will provide a range of benefits and opportunities for local people. Earlier this month for example, we launched a community competition to find names for our new hospitals.
More than just buildings, we are working hard to foster mentally healthy cultures and communities in Wandsworth and across South West London. We are partnering on a groundbreaking new mental health prevention campaign, bringing forward a long-term action plan to promote and protect mental health across the region. We are taking advantage of new technologies to improve our services and working in more agile ways to suit both our staff and patients. And we are beginning to look hard at how we can improve synergies between our community and inpatient services to improve the care we deliver.
We are hopeful for the coming years; working to be innovative in the way we provide our services, and inclusive in the way our teams will work to promote wellness. We want each and every person we work with to know that their care is personalised, supporting their recovery and ongoing wellbeing.
Overall, 2021 will be an important year for our Trust and the people we serve as our Integrated Programme develops. It’s a year that we will see us build on the changes made in 2020 and evolve them into our everyday operations and our lives. Looking beyond the pandemic, we are committed to supporting our communities to recover from the effects of Covid-19 by boosting local healthcare, training, employment and purchasing wherever we can.
We also want to say thank you to all our staff and community to partners who have helped us to rise to the challenges of the pandemic, and adapt at pace with safety at the core of all of our work.
Springfield Village symbolises an important evolution in the care we deliver and we look forward to sharing in the benefits that our innovations and investments will bring to south west London in the years to come. As all the various elements and changes come together, we remain clear in our mission and our vision – we will make life better together.