"Things have not changed"

About: South London And Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust / Inpatient mental health care

(as the patient),

I have been an inpatient at South London and Maudsley NHS trust many times over the past 12 years. Back in 1996 the new Ladywell Unit was opened. It represented an environmental improvement over the old hospital at Hither Green which I thought was quite frankly a disgrace.

However, as the years have passed I feel it has got shabbier and more neglected. The environment seems to me to be designed to depress people and reminds me that I am considered as potentially dangerous. Do the bathroom fittings really have to be fag-ash grey?

As for the staff, I think there are one or two good people who are professional and treat patients humanely and with dignity. From my experience, many others seem to go out of their way to avoid speaking to us as far as possible. They are always "busy", though what they are actually busy doing is not easy for me to ascertain.

If a patient like myself requests, for example, an escort to the garden (I feel it is a basic human right to have some fresh air and a change of scenery) the inevitable speech about staff shortages is trotted out to me and I am made to feel unreasonable for even asking.

12 years ago I felt as if more nurses actually seemed to talk to patients. Now the experienced ones often seem to me to spend their time in the office and I can see the inexperienced and untrained sit around staring at us or the TV and rarely speaking. Thank God for the Link workers, people with service user experience who give up their own time to come on the wards and give us a little human respectful company.

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Response from Su Glazier, Head of Improvement, Innovations and Involvement, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

Dear Starlet,

We appreciate you spending the time to share your story with us regarding your experiences in our services. We value your feedback and will look into the specific issues you raise through your story. Once we have done this, we will post a more detailed response.

With best wishes,


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Response from Steve Davidson, Service Director, Mood, Anxiety and Personality Clinical Academic Group and Psychological Medicine Clinical Academic Group, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

Thank you Starlet for your feedback about your experiences as an inpatient within the Ladywell Unit. I am sorry that you were unhappy with the environment at Ladywell and that you felt that many of the staff avoided contact with you and other patients on the ward. Your comments were forwarded to the Deputy General Manager for Lewisham Inpatient Services and this response is based upon their report.

I am sorry that you found that the environment at the Ladywell Unit had become increasingly shabby. A Business Case has been developed outlining a major programme of works needed to improve the quality of the ward environments at the Ladywell Unit, thereby ensuring that inpatient services for Lewisham residents meet the highest standards of care in relation to issues such as privacy and dignity. This includes a wide range of areas such as space, equipment and air cooling.

I am also sorry that you found that a number of staff appeared to avoid speaking with patients and that your requests were not able to be met because staff said that there were not enough people to be able to meet these. I can appreciate how frustrating this was for you. The NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement has been working with nurses to develop ways to increase the amount of direct care time given to patients in mental health wards. The Productive Mental Health Ward programme is designed to help achieve this by improving the effectiveness, safety and reliability of mental health wards. Sites that have helped develop and test the programme have reported that their expectations have been exceeded and that their staff have been empowered and enthused to make challenging changes to the way they work.

Our services have been progressively implementing the Productive Mental Health Ward across all of the adult inpatient wards to support ward staff in increasing the amount of time they spend with patients and reduce the amount of time the ward staff spend dealing with non patient matters.

Again, thank you for your feedback which will be communicated to the ward managers at the Ladywell Unit through the monthly ward managers meeting.

If you have any further concerns and would like to discuss this issue further, Stella Davis, Deputy General Manager for In-patient Services will be happy to meet with you to hear your concerns. Please phone 0208 333 3000 ext. 8491 to arrange a time to meet with Stella.

Yours sincerely

Steve Davidson

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