Transforming Betts Ward by listening to patients

News: Transforming Betts Ward by listening to patients
Edward Kanu and Ami Woods

In the last two years the experience of patients on Betts Ward at Green Parks House, our mental health inpatient unit in Bromley, has been transformed and complaints have reduced by 80% due to a challenging Experience Based Co-Design (EBCD) project.

The EBCD project was led by members of ResearchNet, a network of service users who work with us to help us improve. EBCD is an approach which involves gathering experiences from patients and staff through interviews, observations and group discussions, identifying key 'touch points' (emotionally significant points) and learning from these. It has been successfully used in other parts of the NHS but had never before been used in a mental health ward.

Neil Springham, Head of Art Therapy, recruited members to take part in the project. He said: "Acute mental health wards can be stressful for staff and frightening for service users. Asking people about the most difficult time in their life, filming it and showing it to staff was a big ask." Short, edited films were created from the patient interviews and viewed by staff and patients who discussed the findings and identified areas for improvements. Neil again: "The films were a way of bringing together two groups of people that was mutually beneficial. We realised that staff often only saw the patients when they were acutely unwell and it was great for them to see people again when they are well."

We asked Edward Kanu, Ward Manager why they had used EBCD: "I thought to myself why am I in this job? I want to make a difference and I thought why wouldn't I want to hear about people's experiences? The videos changed my career. I've never been the same since I watched them. I'm very pleased that I took the challenge and Betts Ward is a much better place as a result of experience based co design."

The Betts Ward team have changed how they triage new patients and get regular feedback from patients now in daily patient experience meetings which are chaired by Edward. These give patients an opportunity to talk about the past 24 hours on the ward, and staff to hear about issues and respond before they escalate.

An unexpected benefit was the huge therapeutic impact on the people who took part. One participant, Ami Woods is an art therapist who spent some time as an inpatient on Betts Ward. She said: "Turning a terrible experience into something productive has been a really important part of my recovery." She continued: "It's been a really hard project, but it's been very empowering for people. Usually you keep this stuff quiet - you don't tell anybody. This turned all that on its head and said ‘You can make a difference.'"

Published on 7th January 2014