Monday, 7 October 2019

Powys Patients' Council - a new approach

John Lilley (Patients' Council Volunteer), Owen Griffkin (Participation Officer) 
& Rhydian Parry (Patient's Council Volunteer)

by Owen Griffkin - Mental Health Participation Officer

There is a quote that used to rattle around in my mind when going through difficult times that goes something like:

"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."   Albert Camus

I was reminded of this quote attending the latest Powys Patients’ Council meeting at Bronllys Hospital’s Felindre Ward recently, where the weather flipped between a Powys winter and an Indian summer throughout the afternoon. It’s obviously a well-written quote about resilience and recovery, and when a person is staying on an acute mental health ward the ‘invincible summer’ can seem like a long way in the distance. 

This is why it is hugely beneficial for the Patients’ Council to be staffed by volunteers who have experience themselves of staying on Felindre. The patients often express surprise when told that John or Rhyd, our amazing volunteers, were once patients themselves. 

People are more likely to open up and share their experiences on the ward, and to see other people who are further along in their recovery can give them hope for their own future journey. John had several personal discussions with people about his own experience on the ward, and this can be as much an important part of our visits as raising housekeeping issues.

A new approach

We experimented with a new format for the meeting this month, and also a new venue, as the recovery room was temporarily out of action. This meant we sat in the main common space which led to more group discussions. The tray of cupcakes helped as well! 

The recovery room being out of action was one issue raised, and this is hopefully in hand and back in use by now. We had requests around WiFi connection and access to devices so we will be looking at how this develops.The health board has a strong firewall, as you would expect from a large organisation that is reliant on Information Technology, and this can cause restrictions to content that people on the ward can access. Maybe as mobile WiFi becomes more advanced we can look at an independent network.

Another issue was a request for bird feeders out in the front. We had added some with the help of the League of Friends' committee at Bronllys so we were surprised to hear they had gone. We were told this was due to concerns from previous patients about vermin, so we are researching a solution to this age-old problem.

There were also concerns about the set times for smoking (currently 15 minutes every hour) and the response was that this is due to health and safety and staffing issues. We will have to monitor if this will change once the new indoor smoking ban comes into being and how smoking breaks will work then.

There were two other maintenance issues raised, one of which was being fixed as we left, which is a quick turnaround. The Occupational Therapy kitchen issues, which had led to it being out of use for a few months, have now been fixed.

We will be back for the next Patients’ Council meeting at the end of October, when there is likely to be a new Occupational Therapist in position on a permanent basis. We hope this role will mean that there is a quality programme of activities on the ward and will help to support this in any way that we can.

Find out more

I post regular updates about the Patients' Council meetings on our mental health website. If you would like to find out more, or volunteer for Powys Patients' Council, then you can contact me by emailing or ringing 01597 822191.


  1. Hi Owen, are you considering using the main lounge regularly? It would make attendance of the meeting less formal, and people would be able to come in and out without feeling any pressure. It doesn't preclude you moving to the recovery room if anybody wants to discuss stuff privately.

  2. Hi Philip. I think we are yes. I agree with you. It also lets us break off into individual chats with people plus we get coffee if we are lucky.