The Madam Mayor of Sutton, Councillor Jean Crossby, visited the newly transformed Stroke Unit at St Helier recently, taking the time to have a look at the improvements, speak to patients, staff, and visitors, as well as saying a quick hello to the unit’s therapy dog, Dudley.
The Stroke Unit (C3) at St Helier Hospital has been revamped thanks to a project between patients, relatives, and researchers from the Joint Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education at Kingston and St George’s University of London. The project, led by Professor Fiona Jones and known as the Collaborative Rehabilitation Environments in Acute Stroke project (shortened to CREATE), is a three year study funded by the National Institute of Health Research. The main aims of the project are to increase patients’ social, physical and cognitive activity which can help recovery after stroke.
The rooms and bays on the ward now look less clinical, and make our patients feel more relaxed during their stay with us, with more opportunities to be active. There is now a social space, so that families can spend more time with their loved ones.
The walls of the ward are now dotted with original artwork and a forest art mural has been installed in the therapy gym (where patient rehabilitation and physiotherapy takes place). The bays and rooms have also been redesigned so that each area has a different theme, such as nature, seaside and forests (including matching curtains, photo hangers, coat hooks, and new clocks). The CREATE project included this change to ensure that patients felt more comfortable and free to move around, which helps to drive recovery.
Chief Executive of Epsom and St Helier hospitals, Daniel Elkeles, said: “We were delighted to welcome Madam Mayor and would like to thank her for taking the time to come and have a look at the changes we have made to the Stroke Unit. It was a great opportunity for our staff to reflect on progress we have made, and take the time to celebrate their achievements.”
Madam Mayor said: “The artwork looks lovely and gives the ward a more homely feel. It’s absolutely fantastic to see that such a small change can have a huge impact and brighten up the unit as well as patient’s stay in hospital.”
Two of the paintings were kindly donated by local artist Hana Horack, whose father received care on the ward for four months.
In the therapy gym, Madam Mayor met three patients who were engaging in pet therapy with star, Dudley (the cockapoo therapy dog). Dudley is two years old and he visits our Stroke Unit every Monday afternoon, for one hour. Within this time, patients get to groom him, throw a ball, pet him and sometimes give him a treat.
Ruth Hodkinson, Occupational Therapy Technician, said: “We have found since running pet therapy, our patients have really enjoyed the experience of being able to interact with a dog, which could be an everyday activity that a patient would normally do at home. This can help them feel more relaxed and comfortable.”
After the tour, Madam Mayor and visitors enjoyed cakes and tea together, which is similar to the social dining activity on the ward, which has been nicknamed 'come dine with me'. This activity allows patients to come to the social space and eat together in a less clinical environment. It also helps patients to not feel alone and isolated and be able to socialise with other patients, as well as staff members.
Madam Mayor said: “The social corner where patients can come out of their bays to sit, talk and read books and magazines is brilliant as it gives them the opportunity to move around. I really like that the books and magazines section is not filled with stroke information but with magazines and reading books. The activities box (filled with various games such as chess, playing cards, as well as colouring books and puzzles) is good as patients get to do things that they enjoy.”
Former patient Lynn Scarth said that she joined the CREATE group to give her experience and feedback. She explained: “The changes make such a huge difference. It does not look small and cluttered anymore. The Stroke Unit is now a better space where you feel welcomed, comfortable and where recovery feels possible.”
For any queries regarding the Stroke Unit, please contact 0208 296 3151 or 020 8296 4720.