Ellie Walsh, Star Wards & The Great British Open Water Swim Off

Ellie Walsh, Star Wards & The Great British Open Water Swim Off

Ellie Walsh, Assistant Director – Adult Acute/Rehabilitation Mental Health Services at NAViGO, blogs about her work with Star Wards and swimming charity challenge.

In 2006, I started my first ward manager post on an acute ward, it was recognised as failing but the service had a vision for the future. I was sent to an awards ceremony somewhere near Stafford not understanding what I was going to but happy enough to go!

There I was blown away by the most dynamic and amazing woman I have ever met – Marion Janner, founder of Star Wards. Marion was a service user and one mighty woman in a small package who was on a mission to improve inpatient services for mental health. That day was the day I changed the way I saw, thought about, and delivered inpatient/service user care. For that, I am eternally indebted to Marion.

Within months I had Marion and her support dog Buddy up to see our services and meet staff and service users. I hoped that the flame she ignited in me would spread into a wildfire. Thankfully, it certainly did, and Marion and I stayed and remain good friends. She did lots of visits to NAViGO, even riding a Pony on the opening of our Therapeutic Community!

“What did it do for us?” you may ask! It simply gave us permission to think outside of the box, champion creativity, be different, buck the trend and upset estates and infection control!

Why couldn’t we paint the walls ourselves, hang pictures, have photo boards that didn’t look like police mug shots, have pets, cushions, and pot mugs? Why couldn’t we do ‘Wake Up Shake Up’ sessions, activities, protected time? You name it we tried it! We took service users on the journey, upset staff reluctant to change, rewrote policies and began to change the way we engaged with service users. We did all this with passion, motivation and imagination. To this day Star Wards remains an integral part of all inpatient services and the benchmark for delivering high standards of care that you would want your family to receive.

You may wonder why 12 years later am I telling you this. I am not alone; wards around the country and around the world, in fact, have used Star Wards to make changes for the better, improving services and service user outcomes. I have travelled the UK reviewing acute wards and PICUs for the Royal College of Psychiatrists CCQI since 2006. The evidence is out there, and if it’s not, then staff are encouraged to check out the FREE resources on Star Wards website. All it takes is creativity and imagination.

But now I want to get behind Star Wards by supporting the Bright Charity that runs it. Bright is a small charity, has a vibrant Board, works to the patient agenda and operates at minimal cost. There is no large admin and fundraising staff and they have no office. The vast majority of its money is spent on providing help to services like mine. Since 2006 it has survived primarily on grants from amazing sponsors and some project income. I want to fundraise to help it to survive and thrive in the future as it has helped me and my service to thrive in the past.

Ellie Walsh, Assistant Director & Adult Acute/Rehabilitation Mental Health Service Manager – NAViGO 

The Challenge… 

Two sisters, Ellie and Gwen-O will be travelling 1100 miles, swimming in 3 freezing lakes in 3 different countries and all over a 24-hour period! Star Wards is much loved by staff and patients who, like Ellie, have used it to transform care. The money raised will be used to improve life for people on inpatients wards – both staff and patients.

The star sisters will be taking on three beautiful lakes in three countries:

In England they will swim the Hatfields Open Water Lake near Doncaster. Then a drive to the picturesque glacier formed Welsh Lake of Llyn Padarn in Snowdonia. The third and final lake will the historic much sung about Loch Lomond in the Trossachs National Park.


Share this post