Last week was the 70th anniversary of the founding of the NHS. We at Hospital Rooms would like to take this opportunity to celebrate the incredible NHS staff we have worked with, and to thank them for their unwavering support, which has been so fundamental to the realisation of our projects. Our work is guided by the expertise of NHS staff and service users - their knowledge and experience directly informs the artwork created by our commissioned artists. Helping us plan the practicalities of working onsite, facilitating our collaboration with service users, the support of staff allows us to meet our aim of ensuring that each project is genuinely and meaningfully coproduced . So whether they are a nurse, occupational therapist, ward manager, nursing assistant, consultant psychiatrist or student, we want every member of the team to feel a part of the creative process of transforming the environment in which they work.
Witnessing staff finding creative, compassionate and insightful ways to support each service user, recognising their unique individuality, is a constant source of inspiration for us at Hospital Rooms. We have met and collaborated with so many amzing individuals since we started as a charity, people who have made our work possible in ways big and small, people who have moved and inspired us, who have helped us grow, develop and learn and who have given us great hope for the future of the NHS. This post is a tribute to them all.
Despite a long day working on the ward, providing psychiatric intensive care for women, on a cold winter's evening in 2017 staff from Eileen Skellern 1 dedicated time to gather at our studio and meet with Harold Offeh, Tamsin Relly, and Paresha Amin, three of the artists we commissioned to transform the ward. It was an invaluable opportunity for our artists to find out more about the setting ahead of their first visits and for staff to find out about the working practice of our artists. The first of many such meetings, this is where the close partnership which would enable Hospital Rooms' Eileen Skellern 1 project to flourish first started to form.
Pictured with artists Paresha Amin, Tamsin Relly, Harold Offeh and Nengi Omuku are members of staff from Eileen Skellern 1: Clinical Services Lead Ronnie Adeduro, Consultant Psychiatrist Dr. Faisil Sethi, Senior Occupational Therapist Becky Davies and Psychologist Dr. Sophie Butler.
Together with Ward Manager Onyekachi Nwankwo, these members of staff formed the core team for our project at Eileen Skellern 1. We held meetings with this core team every fortnight for months, starting well in advance of the start of the project and continuing throughout its duration. It was thanks to their support, guidance, careful planning and organisation that we were able to work onsite at the psychiatric intensive care unit and minimise disruption to the running of the ward. Crucially this meant we and our artists could interact with patients as much as possible, enabling them to have a huge input into the project.
Becky Davies, senior occupational therapist at Eileen Skellern 1, appeared in a feature about Hospital Rooms on Channel 4 news. Originally broadcast in April, the feature can still be watched online here
"We have ladies come here when they are very very unwell...It's not necessarily their choice to be here. So when they come into the ward we want to make it as therapeutic as we possibly can" -- Becky Davies
At Garnet Ward for older people with dementia and other mental health challenges, Ward Manager Reid Baboolal embraced our project with open arms. His dedication and deep care for his patients was always evident, along with his determination to make Garnet Ward the very best it could be. Reid's enthusiasm and wholehearted commitment to the process of coproduction propelled our project forwards and he forged strong connections with our artists along the way. In fact he and artist Richard Wentworth have become good friends and the pair attended our event at Griffin Gallery together. Reid played a fundamental role in helping us to realise our project, supporting us not only with the logistics of working onsite but also bringing his own creative ideas to the drawing board as we planned and developed the transformation of the ward.
With a passion for collecting interesting objects and artworks, Reid is used to curating his own space and he knew how important aesthetic details, both big and small, were to the everyday lives of the older people being cared for at Garnet Ward. When our artists had completed their work, Reid changed the curtains in the communal rooms so that they didn't clash with the new colour schemes, and rearranged furniture to ensure the artworks were not obstructed and could make the best impact in the space.
For our first project at the Phoenix Unit, a residential rehabilitation unit for people with schizophrenia, part of South West London & St George's NHS Trust, we worked with the amazing Hannah Daisy. As an occupational therapist, working at the Phoenix Unit at the time of our project, Hannah facilitated the involvement of service users and helped to make our vision for the project a reality. We were a new charity when we worked with Hannah, getting used to unfamiliar territory and embarking on an ambitious new venture; so her trust and support really was invaluable. Multitalented, resourceful, hard-working and creative, Hannah demonstrated qualities we have come to recognise as the defining characteristics of the NHS's incredible occupational therapists. Their contribution to mental health care cannot be overstated.
Image by Hannah Daisy, celebrating the 70th birthday of the NHS. You can see more of Hannah's work at @makedaisychains
Hannah Daisy is herself a talented artist and uses her illustrations to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination and raise awareness of the challenges faced by people living with mental health issues. In her role as an occupational therapist, Hannah supports people to find new approaches to coping with daily life, nurturing innate strengths and talents and helping people to gain independence and improve their wellbeing. Her illustration series Boring Self Care recognises how challenging it can be to complete everyday tasks, manage a home and or care for oneself when struggling with mental or physical ill health. The illustrations validate the struggle of basic self-care by celebrating the small but meaningful actions that are rarely acknowledged but which can have a significant impact on our feeling of wellbeing and stability. Posting her artwork on Instagram, the series has attracted attention from all over the world, receiving an overwhelmingly positive response and features about Boring Self Care in The Independent and Huffington Post.
Since completing our project at the Phoenix Unit, Hannah has continued to support us as a charity. Generously donating money from the sale of her handmade pin badges and prints of her Boring Self Care artwork, Hannah has helped us to continue the work we do, contributing to the funding for our project at Garnet Ward.
Continuing our tribute to NHS staff, we'll be dedicating a future post to Dionne Monarch, occupational therapist at Snowsfields Adolescent Unit at The Maudsley Hospital - so watch this space!
Our work would not be possible without the generosity and support of Hospital Rooms’ friends and donors. With your help we can collaborate with more NHS trusts across the UK and give more people the opportunity to be touched and inspired by the unique and radical work that we do.
Your donations really do make a difference.