[Note to see who won each category; follow #NSUA2018 on Twitter!]

I remember when I was in Cygnet Hospital Bierley and they first mentioned the National ServiceUser Awards (NSUAs) and I couldn’t have been more interested! It was only the second time that Cygnet Healthcare had hosted the NSUAs and so there wasn’t much experience or knowledge when it came to the invitations I was involved – and by that I mean that I hand-made every single one!

The following year, I attended as a finalist alongside YoungMinds in one of the categories and we won!

So, this year, when I got told that I could have a spot doing the social media for the 2018 NSUAs I was over the moon and very excited! After many talks I was finally named the Event Blogger and then the Head of Social Media took poorly on the actual day of the Awards, I stepped up and attempted to fill his shoes with a barrage of tweets (each with the #NSUA2018 hashtag!).

Luckily, since the travelling is so bad from Newcastle (my nearest train station) to Coventry (the Awards were being held at the Ricoh Arena); I was allowed to come to the venue the night before and stayed in the onsite DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel. My room was absolutely incredible, by the way! The view from my bed was the entire football pitch/stadium!

About twenty of the senior planning committee and staff members of Cygnet Healthcare had a meal and drinks in the Hotel Restaurant: The Mill Bar and Brasserie and had the chance to all catch-up on the general bits of life, work things, and plans for the Awards. All with a double Bailey’s!!


The following morning, as tired as I was, I couldn’t wait to get going! The room the Awards were being hosted in (the Premier Lounge) was alive with excitement, and absolutely buzzing with discussion as people networked and caught up with old colleagues and friends. It was the most amazing atmosphere to experience.

< Amy Rendle, Head of Marketing, delivers the housekeeping!

Raf Hamazia gives an opening introduction to the Awards >

Our first award in the category of ‘Health and Wellbeing Initiative’ was presented by Rosie Ayub, Patients and Public Partnership Specialist of the Public Participation Team from NHS England. We heard from five different finalists who had all produced outstanding work in the field.

The first, ‘Access For All’ was a co-produced risk management plan devised by Wyvern Ward, Cygnet Hospital Derby and the representatives of the initiative talked about how they had devised solutions to issues raised at community - or People’s Council’s – meetings. These issues had included the need to feel respected, safe, and with their dignity intact.

The second group of representatives were some of the female service users of Rampton Hospital, part of the Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and presented their initiative ‘Sleep Matters.’ The inpatients on Jade Ward felt that they weren’t getting an adequate, and good quality, sleep due to disturbances on the ward such as night time checks in which a torch was being shone through their bedroom window on a regular basis (depending on their level of observations). Service Users found that through community ward meetings, they learnt the impact that a lack of sleep results in the inability to control your actions and they identified that structure, reading, utilising medication, and music; all contributed to a good night’s sleep. This was then put onto a display on the ward.

Next, came the Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust who had co-produced a short film with Moorlands View; calling their initiative: ‘I’m a Service User Get Me Out Of Here!’ They focused their project on how Service Users and staff working together could benefit in mutual respect and give a special consideration to focus on leaving hospital; with the ultimate message being to ‘never give up.’

Fourth, was Cygnet Hospital Derby with their initiative ‘Autism from a Carers Point of View.’ Representatives told the audience that it had been inspired by autistic training and hoped to demolish the stigma of a person assuming that a child is naughty when in fact, they are struggling and have autism.

Finally, Rampton Hospital from the Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, talked about ‘DBT Skills Rap’ – an initiative in which the DBT Group within the National Women’s Service had developed a rap to remember the many acronyms in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. The brave women talked about how the rap had helped their understanding of the skills and their hope in inspiring others meant the entire audience were on their feet singing along to the rap!

Our second award of the day was in the category ‘Community, Social or Vocational Initiative’ and was presented by Steve Sylvester, Head of Specialised Commissioning for Mental Health from NHS England. In this section, we heard from five more projects; each specialising in this field.

The first was named ‘Wizarding World of Waterloo’ and was with Waterloo Manor from InMind; who hosted a ‘Wizard Day’ – in which they used the words of J K Rowling and stories from the actors of the Harry Potter movie to talk about battling stigma, and staying strong. The entire day helped encourage people to start reading either again, or much more, which can be a great self-soothing skill or coping strategy.

Next came the representatives from the Trevor Gibbens Unit in Kent and Medway NHS and SocialCare Partnership Trust, with their patient led initiative ‘Lakeside Lounge.’ An app was developed to help improve the accuracy of orders and develop a system for stock taking with the award-winning volunteer run cafĂ©

Third, we heard from a collaborative project between the Only Foals and Horses Sanctuary, and Whalley of Merseycare NHS Trust. I found this presentation particularly interesting having been an avid horse rider and lover since the age of six! Only Foals and Horses kindly provided the opportunity for service users to enrol on a horse care course with the chance to go on to become a mentor and co-facilitate the course for the next group of service users who come along. One service user spoke about one of the benefits of the initiative being that she knew if she were to do something to harm herself then she wouldn’t be able to see the pony that she’d fallen in love with – it was her motivation to stay well.

The penultimate presentation was by the Recovery Team at Kemple View within the Priory Group who talked about their ‘FAVORUK National Recovery Walk’ initiative. The Walks take place each September to raise awareness of substance abusers and those recovering from addiction. The Walk is the biggest even of it’s kind in Europe and has had over 10,000 people take part.

Finally, Wyvern Ward from Cygnet Hospital Derby presented their ‘Curry Club.’ The idea came from the happy memory of a Service User from when he was being taught to cook. Harnessing this, he began the weekly Curry Club where he’d share his skills and knowledge of spices and flavours in all kinds of combinations, before the entire group would consume their curry made from scratch, together.

Following our entertainment break, we resumed with the third Awards category: ‘Breaking Down Barriers’ which was presented by Angela Newton, Director of Service UserInvolvement at Together for Mental Wellbeing.

Our first finalist was a group from Bowling Ward at Cygnet Hospital Bierley; with their initiative ‘An End to Stigma’ through a short film on the stigma around mental health.   It included public, staff, and service user interviews as well at time lapses and a hyper-lapse, that was displayed at meetings, conferences, and for other service users and mental health professionals.

Next up, was ‘The Skinny D Mixtape’ from Wenric House, Littlemore Mental Health Centre in Oxford Health. The purpose of the tape was for ‘Skinny D’ to use the power of music and rap lyrics to tell the story of the challenge of mental health. Hoping that the creative expression would show optimism and hope for the future.

Third, we heard from Southwell Day Centre at Rampton Hospital, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and their initiative: ‘Rampton’s Recovery College – Co-production at its finest.’ With five service users, who had either learning disabilities or mental health problems, the Recovery College decided to re-launch and it began with the five patients taking their City and Guild 7300. All the patients passed; for two it was especially important as for one, it was their first qualification; and for another it was the firsts qualification in their entire family! The five service users have now gone on to co-facilitate other courses.

Our penultimate initiative was from St. Andrew’s Healthcare Birmingham where patients designed a sculpture as part of the large public trail – The Big Sleuth. He sculpture was named Vincent, the Bipolar Bear. The public trail raises money for Birmingham Children’s Hospital and has so far raised £250,000!

The final finalist (like what I did there?!) was the Hearing Voices Support Group from Rampton Hospital, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. Representatives of the initiative, talked about how one in three members of mental health staff with have mental health problems and that based on this, they wanted to set up a place for people to feel helped and supported in an atmosphere built on trust where staff and patients can be heard as equals – as voice-hearers.

Entertainment: Creepz
Twitter:  @creepzmusic1

12:45 LUNCH

After a delicious meal (cottage pie and rice, for me!), we moved onto the fourth award of the day: ‘Recovery and the Arts;’ presented by Wayne Saville, Mental Health Expert By Experience.
The first finalist in this category was CHOICES Recovery College, from Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust'. The College runs of 60 courses and some are co-produced with Service Users, with around 60% of the total service user population signed up to the courses that has seen those historically difficult to engage with, thrive.

Pride Guide by Waterloo Manor, InMind were the second to present their initiative; to continue Pride Events to include an exploratory history session of LGBTQ. When the College put together a guide it showed their commitment to choice, rights, respect, and passion in reducing stigma.

The third initiative in the ‘Recovery and the Arts’ category was Capel Ward, from Farmfield Hospital, Elysium Healthcare with their initiative ‘Singer songwriter/music production.’ Their three, service-user-composed pieces ‘There’s a rose,’ ‘Nicanloadmigun,’ and ‘Trust to Dis’ have played a big role in the Service User’s recovery and the songs placed in the Koestler; receiving a ‘gold’, ‘bronze’, and ‘highly commended’ award.

The penultimate initiative in this category with ‘The Learning Disability patient Oscars’, from the Southwell Day Centre of Rampton Hospital in Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. By using Oscar-style awards; even those in hospital segregation attended the event to be in with the chance of winning one of ten categories, certificated by the Chief Executive.

Finally, the initiative ‘Acorn Hour’ by ‘Deep Root Productions’ from Rampton Hospital, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. ‘Acorn Hour’ – an hour long radio programme, co-produced by patients and Rampton education staff, gave patients the opportunity to use specialised equipment which helped them to understand how to create a radio show. After hearing podcasts of the show, it sounds completely professionals and contains staff interviews, music pieces, and quizzes.  

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