Archive for February, 2012

Interesting Radio programme

February 11th, 2012

Available on the iplayer – Psychiatrist Robin Murray tells Jim why he has changed his mind about the cause of schizophrenia.

A very interesting programme especially for those interested in schizophrenia and psychosis, certainly makes you think.

Thanks to Anton Faulconbridge for this post

University of Glamorgan History Students visit Whitchurch

February 4th, 2012

Yesterday morning (3rd of February) we had a group visit from Dr Fiona Reid, Deputy Head of Humanities at Glamorgan University and 3rd year BA History students organised by Dr Ian Beech, Tim Goosey and Gwawr Faulconbridge.
The weather was fantastic so Ian shared much of the information in the fresh open air. We had a look at one of the rooms that used to be used for visitors and sat in the Boardroom and heard about the meetings the visiting committee held there.

We then saw a very interesting old contraption, thanks to Bob Bosley,  please see photo and leave a comment if you know what it was used for.
We then visited the main hall where many shows used to be  organised for staff and patients. Tim explained the room mock ups in the hall  and reflected on how things have changed over the years.

Students listen to Ian

Outside the main entrance of Whitchurch

What is this?


Signing our Visitors Book

We then went up to W1A to finish off the morning with a presentation from  Tim looking at an overview of the last 100 years and the history of drug treatments from Gwawr. Memories of Whitchurch were shared by Greg and Lynne from the  Historical Society.
It was a great morning and such a pleasure to welcome the group to Whitchurch Hospital Thanks to all who came along and to everyone that helped

Highs and lows at Ely Hospital

February 4th, 2012


Cian O'Donoghue, training coordinator for Cardiff People First

In the final installment of our Ely Hospital series, CLARE HUTCHINSON looks at the remarkable story of how former patients came together to share their experiences of the institution with the outside world.

WHEN Ely Hospital finally closed its doors in 1997, it heralded a new era for people with learning disabilities in Cardiff.

Instead of living in a hospital, 30 to a ward, the institution’s former patients were out in the community, living in their own supported accommodation – some in small groups, others on their own.

“Many of the people who lived at Ely Hospital never had the chance to do many things on their own and that’s what made resettlement so difficult,” said Karen Jeffreys, who helped facilitate the Ely Hospital project.

“Even now, many people who were at the hospital find it difficult to make choices and still have a healthy respect for support workers.”

The group Karen works for, Cardiff People First, started as an advocacy group set up by residents living in Ely Hospital. Many of those former residents still work with the group and it was their idea to come forward and tell the wider public about their time at the institution.

“The idea came out of a meeting with members of Cardiff People First and our young people’s group, Cardiff Young People First,” said Karen.

“The older people brought along a video called Ely Voices, which they had done when the hospital was being closed, and it quickly became clear that the young people had no idea what Ely Hospital was.

“They were asking ‘why were you living in a hospital?’ and ‘were you allowed out?’

“You could see that they really didn’t know about what used to happen to some people with a learning difficulty.”

After pitching their idea to the Heritage Lottery Fund, the group was given £25,000 from the organisation to make it a reality.

“After setting up a steering group made up of members from Cardiff and Newport People First, we sent out a letter via the social work team, who talked to former residents about telling their story,” said Karen.

“Lots of people contacted us wanting to get involved – staff as well as former patients.

“Meanwhile, members of Young People First received training in camera and interviewing skills so they could interview former workers and the women’s group went out to Glamorgan Archives to research the hospital’s history.”

The exhibition itself includes a replica of the dayroom at Ely Hospital – complete with board games and Christmas decorations – as well as a bed like those on the wards, a shadow puppet theatre created by the young people’s group and a snakes and ladders game which shows the highs and lows of life at Ely Hospital.

As well as the exhibits, the exhibition includes video interviews with former patients and staff and written stories about life at the hospital.

Karen added: “People do have good memories – because you can’t live your life somewhere without having good memories – but there were also many sad and, at times, shocking stories that came out.

“The members of Cardiff People First who lived in Ely Hospital have always talked about what it was like, but this is the first time they have been heard.

“Since the exhibition opened last week, scores of people have come in or been in touch to tell us about their own experiences.

“Getting people to share their own stories was one of our main aims. No matter whether the story is good or bad – we want everybody with a memory of Ely Hospital to come forward.”


Looking back at Ely Hospital: 100 years behind those walls

February 2nd, 2012

Officials inspect a men's ward at Ely Hospital


In the fifth instalment of our Ely Hospital series, Clare Hutchinson looks at some of the shocking stories of abuse against patients – and hears from former staff members about their experiences at the institution for people with learning disabilities.

Its imposing walls stood for more than 100 years.

Yet few knew what was happening behind those walls which enclosed Ely Hospital. The hospital, off what is now Cowbridge Road West, was a familiar sight.

But in 1967 that all changed when a national newspaper printed allegations, made by a whistleblower, of endemic maltreatment of 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.”

Labour AM for Cardiff West and Cardiff University professor Mark Drakeford, an expert on the Ely Inquiry, said the allegations only centred on a small minority of staff.

He said: “The staff at Ely were not bad people, but somewhere along the way they became part of a system that was.

“After the report, there was a lot of local hostility to the staff at the hospital and many of the staff themselves rejected what the report said, arguing that it had misconstrued what was happening.”

In a video interview recorded for the Ely Hospital project, one former patient – known only as John – recalled his own experience of abuse at the hands of a male staff member.

“My mam came to visit me at the ward and there was a nasty fella in there,” he said.

“He said to me, ‘You’re not to go home.’ I asked why and he wouldn’t tell me. He had me on the floor, beating me up and was kicking me about like a football.

“[The doctor] said, ‘I want you to stop kicking patients about,’ and he said, ‘I haven’t touched them.’

“I said, ‘Yes you did, you hit me.’ Then the doctor said to the man, ‘You’ve got the sack, go and get your week’s money and leave’ – and so he left. The way that man spoke to my dad and mam was terrible.”

Doreen Jones, a former cleaner at the hospital who contributed to the Ely Hospital project at the Cardiff Story Museum, started there shortly after the 1969 Ely Inquiry.

“What sticks in my memory are the padded cells and the Victorian feel to the hospital,” she said.

“So many things seemed to belong to the past – even the way the children were dressed, especially the boots they wore.

“The hospital is gone now and children from those backgrounds are much better off today. They are dressed like other kids and go on holidays and things, which is great.

“I felt that the hospital worked well when there were matrons there – they looked after us and I enjoyed the feeling of being part of a big family. When I left I was sad to go.

“There were some caring people working there and the children were great characters.”

One staff member, who wished to remain anonymous, said the hospital was a “community within a community”.

“The majority of staff were good – there are bad staff and good staff. There were also good times and bad times. You must understand there were up to 42 people on a ward – that’s a lot of people.”

Martin James, who worked for the Welsh Office and helped close Ely Hospital in 1997, said: “Surprisingly, a lot of parents at the time didn’t like what they saw as a move away from the ‘safety’ of the hospitals, and they resisted the idea.

“We were determined that none of the hospitals would be left standing so there was never the temptation to use them again.”

Ely Hospital remembered: Strained relationships

February 1st, 2012

Ely Hospital remembered

In the fourth instalment of our Ely Hospital series, Clare Hutchinson finds out about the often-strained relationships between the hospital’s institutionalised patients and their families back home

From the time it opened as a Poor Law institution for orphaned children in 1862, Ely Hospital was a destination for people who had no families to care for them.

In some cases, this was because members of their close family had died – but in others the reason was altogether darker.

In the late 1940s a 15-year-old girl was admitted to the hospital because she was pregnant and unmarried. After having her baby there, which went on to be adopted, the girl stayed on.

When the hospital closed more than half a century later in 1997, the girl – now a pensioner – was one of the first patients to be resettled in the surrounding community.

One former staff member who remembered the woman, who has not been named in order to protect her identity, said: “She didn’t have a learning disability when she went in, but she left the hospital diagnosed with having one.”

In some cases patients were sent to the institution, which became a long-stay NHS hospital in 1948, because their parents simply could not cope.

For some, this was due to the financial strain of having another child, while for others it was because they were suffering from their own mental health issues, such as depression.

One former resident, interviewed for the Ely Hospital project, said: “My mother put me there, but she’s dead. She was depressed and she took her life, so she didn’t come to see me. Nor my dad. I’ve just got a sister.”

A nurse who worked at the hospital’s children’s ward said many of the residents did not have families.

“There was one particular one, he was the son of the local baker,” she said.

“The baker had died and the mother couldn’t really cope and so he was in the home.

“I wrote to his mother when he died and I had this lovely letter back. She said what a happy life he’d had in the hospital and how kind particular staff had been to him.”

A former therapist who was recruited to the hospital as part of changes that came about as a result of the 1969 Ely Inquiry said many families effectively turned their backs on patients who had been admitted to the hospital.

Others, he said, visited regularly and got involved in activities on the wards.

He said: “Probably families needed support and help to make better relationships with their sons and their daughters.

“That’s something [at Ely] that wasn’t really looked at and which I think needed looking at.”

When families did visit, they were confronted with some shocking sights.

Labour AM for Cardiff West and Cardiff University professor Mark Drakeford is an expert on the Ely Inquiry.

“One of the most striking stories in the report was that of a mother who used to visit her son regularly and always took him a pear,” he said.

“She tells the inquiry about a time she turned up to see him to find all of his teeth had been removed, which was not an unusual thing at the time, so she had this pear and her son had no teeth to eat it with.

“She called the nurse over, who went into a room, came back with a bowl full of dentures and proceeded to try them out one by one – all the time with the mother getting more and more upset.

“When she got through the bowl and none of them had fit, she took the bowl away and as she walked past one of the patients, who was sleeping, she – in full view – whipped the teeth out of his mouth and came back with them.

“When the patient’s mother got upset she was reassured by the nurse, who said, ‘There’s no need to get upset – most of these teeth belonged to patients who are dead anyway.’”

Tomorrow: We look at some of the shocking stories of staff abuse – and talk to former workers about their experiences at the hospital.