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“Cinderella in rags” mental health facility revamped

“Cinderella in rags” mental health facility revamped

Thursday 25 June 2020

“Cinderella in rags” mental health facility revamped


Investment in Jersey's acute mental health ward has helped the “Cinderella in rags” facility turn into a “safe and pleasant therapeutic environment”, according to the CEO of an advocacy charity which supports islanders who are being treated on the psychiatric wards.

Patricia Winchester has praised the Government for the “tremendous progress” that has been done at Orchard House over the last seven months - but reminded there is still a dire need for a purpose-built facility in the island.

As CEO of My Voice Jersey - a specialist independent advocacy charity, which works with adults and children who are severely affected by mental illness or who lack capacity – Ms Winchester frequently visits the acute mental health ward as well as other mental health facilities.

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Pictured: Patricia Winchester, CEO of My Voice Jersey.

She described Orchard House as a “Cinderella in rags” noting the building was damaged with broken doors, tired and run down furniture and medical rooms that were inappropriate. 

The charity CEO therefore welcomed the investment the government has made to improve the environment, inside Orchard House but also in the nearby garden, allowing people to get some fresh air while they are on the ward.

Deputy Kevin Pamplin, who sits on the Health and Social Security Panel and has been calling for improvements to Orchard House, also welcomed the improvements, recalling that his heart sunk the first time he visited the ward. 

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Pictured: One of the bedrooms on the ward.

“It felt like a Louis Theroux documentary,” he said. “…I could not believe this is what we were offering to patients. It looked tired and old, there was no general natural air flow, no sign of anything therapeutic going on. It felt sterile and very old." 

The Deputy said a transition in management has helped give the facility “a new lease of life”, praising the work that has been done in the entrance ward and the outdoor seating area. 

He also praised the creation of a Twitter account for the facility, which he says will help break down the stigma around acute mental health services. “It means we are here and this is what we are about and trying to achieve which is, for me, a good positive step.” 

Ms Winchester has also welcomed the operational investment with the added input of senior directors and experts.

“Mental Health care was previously isolated, but they have now pulled experts from the General Hospital to make sure that processes are in line with those of the hospital,” she explained.  

More staff has also been recruited and provided with better support, Ms Winchester said. They are now working in teams, which ensures patients see the same group of people during a whole shift as well as fostering better working relationships between team members.

More activities are now available for islanders on the ward, including cooking, listening to music, mindfulness or meditation, all of which, Ms Winchester says, promotes recovery. 

“Before people had nothing to do all day,” she said. “Now there is a proper time for activities, including therapeutic ones. There are also things that are quite fun to help people relax and feel like they are part of something… so that when they get up they have something to look forward to.”

In addition, an effective home treatment team is now in place to support people who either do not need admission or are returning home so that they are better supported.

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Pictured: More activities are now available to islanders on the ward.

Ms Winchester said there was a lot of credit to be given to the government, especially Senator Steve Pallett who is responsible for mental health services. She also praised Deputy Pamplin for “keeping the issue at the forefront”, as well as Rob Sainsbury, Group Managing Director for the Department of Health and Community Services, and all the staff on the ground “who despite the covid crisis have changed the way they do things”.

She however reminded that while Orchard House is now a “safe and pleasant therapeutic environment” more investment is still needed.

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Pictured: "This really has been a Cinderella in rags for so long but we need a little bit more still.”

“Things have been put right but at the end of the day we do need a purpose-built facility,” she said. “We are still making do with what we have got and what we have got was never good enough. This really has been a Cinderella in drags for so long but we need a little bit more still.”

She said that a community triage team is also needed to ensure mental health crisis can be spotted early and the individuals affected properly supported.

Ms Winchester is also keen to ensure that the psychologists redeployed at Orchard House during the recent pandemic will remain on the ward as their input has helped reduce the number of incidents of restraint and violence on the ward.

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Pictured: The outdoor area has also been improved.

Her comments were echoed by Deputy Pamplin who noted there is still “a long way to go”, arguing that better facilities would also help attract professionals to the island. 

Commenting on the local provision of mental health services as a whole, he said: “We are far from a place where we can pat ourselves on the back.” 

 

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