Posts Tagged ‘News’

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 website

December 1st, 2011

The largest collection of historical newspapers is being published online by the British Library.

Around four million pages of the newspaper archive will be available including more than 200 newspaper titles from across the UK and Ireland.

So far they have done up to 1900 so there is only a little on Whitchurch Hospital but it interesting for other historical research. Let us know how you get on if you subscribe.

Thanks to Tim Goosey for this post

Introducing Laura

November 28th, 2011


I have just finished my MA in Heritage Management at the Ironbridge Institute, a part of the University of Birmingham dedicated to museum and heritage studies, and it was during this course that I developed an interest in the history of mental health and illness, especially institutional care. Originally I wanted to look at how museums interpret former asylums for a short research project, but some cursory research revealed that they are criminally under-represented in museums, as is the history of mental health in general. I decided to save this subject and make it my thesis.

I wanted my thesis to be useful, and to make something of a difference if possible. I did a lot of research into the current landscape of psychiatric buildings in the UK, and found them to be ill-protected, and treated in a manner that would never be tolerated for an historic house or other building. This is what lead me to Whitchurch – I wanted to see if the twin problems of a lack of museum provision and a lack of protection for a magnificent buildings could be planned for ahead of a building’s closure. I’m Cardiff born and bred, so it was not long before I thought of Whitchurch hospital – not only a magnificent building (exemplary in Wales and in a wider national context) but also home to a very forward-thinking approach to mental healthcare at the turn of the twentieth century. My thesis, “A Market for Madness?” primarily looked at the potential for Whitchurch to be preserved as a heritage site and the market potential of such a museum – I conducted several blind surveys online, and the results were incredibly interesting. My thesis would not have been possible without much help from Gwawr, for which I am very grateful.  I’m really encouraged by the attitude of the Whitchurch Historical Society – enthusiasm for the history of a place is often the hardest thing to come by, and it is the only way psychiatric institutions are being preserved currently. I hope to do some more work with the WHHS, and I hope I can help in some small way.

I am hoping to look more at Whitchurch in the near future – starting with a few more pieces for this blog on my research so far. Also, I’m currently working at the Science Museum in London, primarily with the psychological collections (which include a rulebook from Whitchurch’s early days) and I’m applying to Ironbridge for funding for a PhD starting in 2012, looking in much greater depth at what Museums need to do to bring their interpretation of mental health and illness up to speed, because nowhere near enough is being done yet.

Thanks to Laura for this first installment

The Lobotomists

November 8th, 2011

From BBC i player –

2011 marks a 75th anniversary that many would prefer to forget: of the first lobotomy in the US. It was performed by an ambitious young American neurologist called Walter Freeman. Over his career, Freeman went on to perform perhaps 3,000 lobotomies, on both adults and later on children. He often performed 10 procedures or more a day. Perhaps 40,000 patients in the US were lobotomised during the heyday of the operation – and an estimated 17,000 more in the UK.

This programme tells the story of three key figures in the strange history of lobotomy – and for the first time explores the popularity of lobotomy in the UK in detail.

The story starts in 1935 with a Portuguese doctor called Egas Moniz, who pioneered a radical surgical procedure on the brain. Moniz was a remarkably distinguished figure, a diplomat as well as a doctor, who had invented the technique of cerebral angiography which is still used today. With very little evidence, he speculated that cutting the links between the frontal lobes and the rest of the brain would relieve symptoms of mental disorder. His results were seized on with enthusiasm the following year by Freeman, the grandson of one of the US’s most famous surgeons. Freeman was a relentless self-publicist and managed to convince many of the efficacy of his procedure. Freeman’s promotion of lobotomy as a cure for mental illness was instrumental in Moniz receiving the Nobel Prize for medicine. The operation was also taken up by the most celebrated British neurosurgeon of the time, Sir Wylie McKissock. Like Freeman, he travelled the country, performing numerous lobotomies in single sessions. For this programme, Hugh Levinson interviews McKissock’s former colleagues and hears in detail about how he performed several thousand lobotomies, or leucotomies as they were known in the UK.

The operations were successful in subduing disturbed patients, usually with immediate positive results, which sometimes persisted. Freeman argued that this was better than letting mentally ill patients rot away for decades in squalid institutions, untreated and unattended. However, further monitoring showed very mixed results. While a significant number of patients with affective disorders seemed to become better, a large proportion were unaffected or got worse. Many patients reverted to a child-like state. A significant proportion died as a direct result of the procedure.

In the 1940s, Freeman pushed on, devising a faster and cheaper procedure. He hammered an icepick (originally taken from his home fridge) through the top of each eye socket, directly into the skull. He then swept the icepick from side to side, destroying the connections to the frontal lobes. Other surgeons were horrified by the random nature of the operation. He recorded with satisfaction in his diary when attending doctors ended up vomiting or fainting. His closest aide refused to participate. By the late 1950s the lobotomy craze was over, and only a very few continued to be performed in special cases. In the late 1960s, Freeman was banned from operating.

The stories of Moniz, Freeman and McKissock – all commanding and dynamic figures – raise profound questions about our ideas both of mental health and science. Is a patient “cured” just because he becomes subdued? And how come the lobotomy became so popular despite the lack of evidence of its efficacy – and the rapid dissemination of evidence of its potential for harm? To what extent is science independent of powerful personalities, economic considerations and media pressure?

Thanks to Eve Evans for this post

Book sale will aid patients’ comfort

October 14th, 2011

WHITCHURCH Hospital League of Friends will be holding a booksale on October 28 and 29.

It will open at 10.30am and close at 4pm at St Mary’s Church Hall, Church Road, Whitchurch. There will be a range of fiction and non-fiction in hard and paperbacks. All proceeds will go towards patients’ comfort and well-being in both the hospital and community.

Ladies in the Dispensary…

October 4th, 2011

This photo I believe was taken around about 1983 for the 75th Anniversary of the hospital.

The lady on the left is Mrs Audrey Lewis who worked in the pharmacy from the early 1970ies until the mid eighties – thanks to David Lewis, Audrey’s son for the information.

The lady on the left is Mrs Helen Hilling who worked in the pharmacy until the 1990ies when she retired.

Mystery Photo

National Treasures Live BBC 1

September 2nd, 2011

As part of the National Treasures Live series there is an interesting part of episode 3 where “Ruby Wax takes a look at some of the grisly techniques that were used on patients inside Victorian asylums.”

Find it on the BBC i player under National Treasures Live – Shakespeare Dig Stratford.It is about 20minutes into the programme and Ruby visits the Glenside Hospital Museum in Bristol

Available to watch until the 14/09/11

Thanks to Tim Goosey for recommending this programme.

Dr Dafydd Huws (1936 – 2011)

August 3rd, 2011
Dr Dafydd Huws

Dr Dafydd Huws

It is with great sadness that we have to report the death of Dr Dafydd Huws at the age of 75.
Dafydd was appointed Consultant Psychiatrist at Whitchurch Hospital in 1971 and retired in 1996. He had been a medical student in Cardiff and also undertaken his post graduate training in the Cardiff area.
His consultant responsibilities including looking after the day hospital at Tegfan, as well as providing general psychiatric care to an adult population. Prior to retirement he had been clinical director and subsequently medical director to the Cardiff Community NHS Trust.
It is almost impossible to condense into a few paragraphs his life and work as a psychiatrist, as well as conveying something of the person and character that he was. His energy and enthusiasm permeated everything that he did. Dafydd had a special interest in eating disorders and psychosomatic illness. He never failed to be intrigued by the different ways people and personalities presented their illness. He was genuinely interested in the human condition and how we cope with stress and adversity. His approach was not always conventional, but he was usually successful, I think its fair to say that he would not have felt comfortable working in today’s managed care system.
One of his strengths was as a communicator; He often used analogy to explain concepts. One of the more enduring in explaining psychosomatic illness  being the overfull suitcase, which if the contents were not allowed to bulge out of the front, would manifest as pressure in a different part of the container. He was in demand as a lecturer and speaker, but also by the media who sought his view when any story of a psychiatric relevance broke.
He was a great mentor for any young psychiatrist, and always ready with good advice, one of his favourites was the assertion that the secret of a long career in psychiatry was to do something completely different – and he did that with gusto.  He was an active member of Plaid Cymru, their first councilor in Cardiff, and one time party chairman. He ran several farms, and enjoyed relating the story and how he used to bring back orphaned lambs from his farm near Aberystwyth and keep them in the residency in medical quarters during the working week, and the great lengths he would go to in order to dodge the cleaner. His interest in renewable  energy he later turned into a business, owning and running one of the first wind farms in Wales.
Dafydd perhaps more than anything else was a proud Welshman, and was unflinching in his support of the language and culture, this naturally extended to his patronage of the Welsh Psychiatric Society and y Gyndeithas Feddygol. He had a keen intellect and wrote Welsh poetry and enjoyed nothing better during work breaks than discussing philosophy and theology with his colleagues.
During his final illness he did a radio programme. Interviewed in Welsh he talked about his life and career. He talked very openly about his cancer and how it had affected him, but commented that he would not have wished to have lived without it. He felt that the experience had in many ways changed him and enriched his being – a comment typical of the man who could see the positive and value in most things.
His funeral took place in Bow Street, Aberystwyth on the 9th of July. He leaves a widow Rhian, and five children, two of whom have followed him into the medical profession.

Thanks to Dr John Lewis for this post

Visit of 3rd Year Medical Students to the Hospital

June 28th, 2011

Last Thursday the 23rd of June a group of 3rd year medical students visited Whitchurch Hospital as part of a History of Medicine SSC (Student Selected Components) course. We had an interesting morning starting off with a talk from Tim Goosey looking at the history of the Hospital, followed by some information on medication over the years by Gwawr Faulconbridge. We moved to the boardroom for coffee and a look at the artifacts there. Next in the plan was a tour of the grounds but the rain put a temporary stop to that so we made our way to the main hall. The rain had stopped for a moment so we made the most of it and had a brief tour of the East side of the Hospital. We then had a tour of the ECT department where Dr Maria Atkins gave a talk on this treatment. The morning was nicely finished with a talk on the history of ECT by Dr Maria Atkins.

Thank you to all who were involved in organising this event, Dr Katie Phillips, Dr Maria Atkins and Tim Goosey.

Tim's talk

Tim's talk

The Display

The Display

The Water Tower

The Water Tower

The East Side Of The Hospital

The East Side Of The Hospital

Dr Maria Atkins talk

Dr Maria Atkins talk

The Tour

The Tour