Archive for January, 2012

Looking back at Ely Hospital: Activities and holidays

January 28th, 2012

Ely Hospital remembered in our series

In the third installment of our Ely Hospital series, Clare Hutchinson takes a look at activities and holidays at the institution, as told by those who were there

Activities formed a central part of daily life for patients with learning disabilities at Ely Hospital.

After the damning 1969 Ely Inquiry, in which the hospital was condemned for – among other things – not giving patients enough stimulation, more emphasis was put on activities like art, crafts, music and flower arranging.

But perhaps one of the more unusual activities was what was known as industrial therapy.

A therapist who worked at the hospital for 33 years shared his memories of his time there with Cardiff People First’s Ely Hospital project.

“Industrial therapy was awful,” he said.

“I think it came from the history of learning disabilities and workhouses as a way to try and give people proper jobs and get them out into the community.

“But that’s not what happened. It was actually just occupying people.

“You would get those little packs of screws and washers and things like that. They would fill those up, put 20 of them in a pack and seal them up and earn money from it.”

At other times, groups of up to 40 patients at a time would tie and re-tie ribbons, or even stamp prescriptions for the health authority.

The therapist added: “All day long you could hear it. When you’ve got 30 to 40 people doing that at a time its quite a loud sound in this big place.”

In the 1990s, before the hospital closed in 1997, patients could get paid up to £7 a day for their work.

One former nurse, who also contributed to the Ely Hospital project at the Cardiff Story museum, said patients could not earn more because it would affect their benefits.

“What we were trying to do was to make lots of different activities and put some routine into the residents’ lives there,” she said.

“First thing in the morning I would go into the wards and I would help people to dress or to feed themselves, and then across on the main department we would have all sorts of different activities going on for different groups that came over.

“We had some industrial therapy there and others would take part in drama, music and craft activities, cookery and then some days we would go out for trips.

“The ones that were more able had little jobs on the ward that they would get paid for, like tidying up or helping to look after somebody else, helping with mealtimes. But in our department we also had what was called an industrial therapy unit – packing screws and hooks and things.”

Looking back at Ely Hospital: How inquiry rocked the nation

January 25th, 2012

Officials inspect a men's ward at Ely Hospital

Former patients and staff have come together to tell the inside story of Ely Hospital for a new exhibition at the Cardiff Story museum. All this week, CLARE HUTCHINSON looks at the forgotten history and fascinating stories uncovered by learning disability group Cardiff People First, starting with a history of the institution

IN 1967, a long-stay hospital for people with learning disabilities hit the headlines in a way which had rarely happened before.

Ely Hospital, built in 1862 as a Poor Law institution and converted to a long-stay NHS hospital in 1948, was hit with allegations of endemic maltreatment of its patients, including cruelty, verbal abuse, beatings, stealing of food, clothes and other items, indifference to complaints, lack of medical care and medication used to sedate patients.

“We must never forget,” said one former resident who lived in the hospital for most of her life. “It was a terrible place”.

The subsequent Ely Inquiry in 1969 exposed a hospital cut off from the mainstream, with little or no staff training and overcrowded wards. A White Paper followed in 1971, which eventually led to a total transformation in the way people with learning disabilities are cared for.

Labour AM for Cardiff West and Cardiff University professor Mark Drakeford is an expert on the Ely Inquiry. “It was very shocking at the time,” he said.

“It was the first major hospital scandal of the post-war period and it really hit the headlines, both locally and nationally. Part of the scandal was that these were bad things going on in a hospital, which was supposed to be a place where people were cared for.”

It would be almost another three decades until Ely Hospital finally shut its doors and its patients were resettled in the surrounding community.

In total there were 18 reports between 1968 and 1980 in which allegations of maltreatment of patients were investigated in what were then known as ‘mental illness’ and ‘mental handicap’ hospitals.

Prof Drakeford said: “Politically, the biggest impact it had was that an advisory review was set up as a result of the report, which could go in and look at the quality of medical care that was being offered in long-stay hospitals.

“There is always a need for vigilance where institutions are concerned because they can become isolated.

“In any institution there is a tendency for it to become a bit inward looking and cut off from the standards that are expected elsewhere, which is why regular inspection and visits are so crucial. The big thing that it did was it started the movement for closure on a path that means that today there are almost no institutions like this anywhere in the UK.”

Tomorrow: What day-to-day life at Ely Hospital was like, as told by those who were there.

Apologies that the Ely articles do not appear in the same order as they were on Wales on line webiste

Ely Hospital – article in Wales Online today

January 24th, 2012

Looking back at Ely Hospital: Staff ruled every aspect of life

A busy social scene at Ely Hospital


Former patients and staff have come together to tell the inside story of Ely Hospital for a new exhibition at the Cardiff Story museum. Clare Hutchinson takes a look at day-to-day life at the institution, as told by those who were there

IN the late 1960s Ely Hospital, a long-stay hospital for people with learning difficulties, was an isolated world in which cigarettes were the only currency and patients slept 50 to a ward.

This all changed after the 1969 Ely Inquiry – with ward sizes going down to 30 patients or less – but many of the characteristics of life in the institution remained the same.

Karen Jeffreys of Cardiff People First said: “They didn’t get a choice. They got up when they were told to get up, they wore what they were told to wear, ate what they were told to eat and did activities that they were told to do.

“For many people, we are talking about 30 years of their lives – or more – without even being able to make a cup of tea for themselves, because the kettle was an industrial one and it was too dangerous.

“And it wasn’t just in Ely – this was happening in institutions like it across the country. It was just the way things were done.”

Because patients did not earn money, cigarettes became a form of currency in the hospital – something recounted by a former therapist.“You had a lot of members of staff who used to smoke on the wards,” he said.

“I guess as people became more enlightened they used to include the residents. So they would get the residents to do something, like, ‘if you go down the shop to get me my Chinese meal I’ll give you a cigarette’, and once the person becomes hooked it becomes more of an incentive to get more cigarettes.

“Some residents would smoke continuously, while others would pick them up off the floor and make up their own, or some used to eat them.

“But because some of them tended to smoke them very quickly, by the end of the week they wouldn’t have any, so what some of the staff would do was to share them out throughout the week to ensure the person would have cigarettes, because if they didn’t they would become very agitated, very angry, and then it would be almost triggering people to go and pinch them – and of course they would get into trouble and all sorts of things.

“So it made sense. With the staff it was a sense of control over people. You control the supply and the currency and you can have more influence over what people did.”

He added: “Behaviour modification is a good therapeutic tool but then it was used as, ‘if you’re a bad boy or a bad girl’ – and we’re talking about men and women the same age or older than me – their cigarettes were taken off them, or they couldn’t see their mum or their dad.”

One former patient recalled his own experience of going to the shop across the road to buy cigarettes.“I told the day nurse can I go over the shop and she told me ‘What are you going over the shop for?’” he said.

“I told her I wanted a packet of cigarettes and she went to the office to get the money out, gave it to me and then she told me, ‘After you’ve got your cigarettes go straight back to the hospital.’

“You couldn’t have a cigarette on the ward, you had to go outside. But you couldn’t go out through the gates, you had to stay on the premises.”




Stories from Ely Hospital at The Cardiff Story Museum

January 9th, 2012

Stories from Ely Hospital: 16th January – 28th February 2012



Interesting TV programme…

January 3rd, 2012

Came across this tonight on More 4…

Two of four daughters of John Bowes-Lyon (the Queen Mother’s older brother), Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon were born in 1919 and 1926; Katherine is only three months younger than her cousin Elizabeth, the girl who would one day be crowned Queen.

From the ages of 15 and 22, respectively, they were sent to live at the Royal Earlswood Hospital, an institution for the learning disabled in Surrey, which was built in 1855 as an ‘Asylum for Idiots’.

While their two other sisters enjoyed lives of privilege and inclusion in the social world of the aristocracy and the royal family, Katherine and Nerissa were all but forgotten.

The two sisters seemed to be aware of their royal connections; when royal events were shown on television, they would curtsy to the screen.

In 1963, Burke’s Peerage, the guidebook to aristocratic lineage, recorded the sisters as having died in 1940 and 1961. Nerissa actually died in 1986, and Katherine was moved into a home in the community when the Royal Earlswood was closed down in 1997.

The film explores the harsh realities of life inside former asylums like the Royal Earlswood through the personal testimony of former residents, their families and the staff who worked there and cared for the Queen’s cousins.

Through their accounts, and with the insight of medical historians, the programme examines the changing attitudes to learning disability in British society.