This blog so far has focused on the Lancashire Care NHS Trust and how they are hurting the women they are supposed to care for.
We would like to make clear that the campaign is not against the staff at The Orchard and we’d like to spend a few moments focusing on the care provided by them when you are acutely unwell. Claire shares her thoughts again.
Earlier this year I was admitted to Ridge Lea hospital and then transferred to The Orchard when that hospital closed. My full story is here - http://bedsintheorchard.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/clares-story-near-miss-distressed.html
The Orchard is staffed by a dedicated team of qualified nurses, nursing assistants, occupational therapists, pharmacists, admin staff, doctors and a consultant psychiatrist with a penchant for Cadbury's chocolate. While I was at the Orchard, I was always impressed by the care and compassion they showed to the service users they were looking after; sometimes under very difficult circumstances.
Whether it was the OTs getting people involved with ‘Wake up and Stretch’, when many preferred ‘Sit down and Smoke’, the nurses taking the time to talk with you despite being snowed under by paperwork, or the nursing assistants taking the time throughout the day and night to make sure that you were OK and had everything you needed, not one made you feel that you were a burden or alone.
Everyone was treated with dignity, everyone was treated according to their needs and no one was left to fend for themselves. A great comfort when you are acutely unwell.
I am not saying that everything was perfect. It was clear that many of the nursing staff would have loved to have more time to spend with the patients, if it wasn’t for the reams of admin they were expected to do every day. Sometimes there was only one qualified member of staff on duty, which was a concern and sometimes communication about appointments was hit and miss, making you feel out of control, but the important thing was that the actual caring was always present. The level of care was consistent, even with the staff working long 12 hour days. You would expect that things would slip by the end of one of their mammoth shifts, but it never did and for that alone, they deserve praise.
There were some things that made being at The Orchard unpleasant, the main issue being the food. This was a never ending stream of pre-prepared meals, shipped in and reheated on the premises, with nothing fresh at all apart from a bowl of fruit. Because the food was always heated in trays, specialities were crunchy rice, where the re-heating dried out the rice at the top, bottom and sides, leaving only the middle soft, and a seemingly never ending stream of quiche for the vegetarians - although they occasionally called it a tart or flan, it was pretty much the same thing. As someone who believes strongly that fresh food is important to health, whether mental or otherwise, it was hard to be somewhere there wasn’t even an oven in the kitchen.
However; the people who served the food were always kind and courteous, even when people like me were critical about what was on offer. The people who cleaned and looked after the building were also kind and courteous. No one made you feel awkward or ‘lesser’ for having a mental illness. For that I am grateful.
The environment at the Orchard was pleasant, although the outside space was disappointing after being in Ridge Lea Hospital where there had been large and pleasant grounds, with trees filled with blossom and wildlife running around. The rooms were well equipped, with a TV in each room – although the bizarre choice of channels did raise eyebrows. I didn’t meet a single service user who sat down to watch BBC Parliament in the whole time I was there.
There is a café that served fresh (oh joy!) sandwiches and decent coffee, with staff who could always be relied on to cheer you up. It was clear that they all loved their jobs and in turn that made the café a very pleasant place to be. It provided a much welcome rest from being in the ward, and an opportunity to talk to the volunteers; ex-service users themselves, who spent time listening to your issues and helping advocate for you with any complaints or compliments you wanted to pass on.
All of the staff at The Orchard and The Apple Tree Café worked hard to help people get well and supported them through really difficult times. I am grateful for the care they gave me when I was unwell and I hope that people reading this will appreciate the good work they do too.