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The team at Hellingly help service users involved criminal justice system get a second chance in life each day. We spoke to Luke Evans, who took us through a day in the life working on Elm ward.

07:00: It's dawn at The Hellingly Centre. Scrub up, mask up, collect keys, wait for the green light. Morning handover on Elm Ward, a 15 bed low-secure forensic unit. Our patients are men who are sectioned under the mental health act and are restricted under criminal justice system. The night nurse hands over information to the new team; two nurses, four support workers and a student. Coffee in hand, clinical updates, new identified risks, settled and slept well. Medicines keys are passed across the table and it’s time to coordinate the shift. Observations, 132s, CPAs, audits, escorted leave, breaks. Every hour planned and accounted for.

08:00: Medication. Fridge temperature, daily checks. Patients come for their tablets, capsules and powders. Who’s awake? Who might need prompting? “Good morning, what are your plans for the day?” Patients slowly emerge from their rooms for breakfast in the dining area. Tea, white toast on blue plates, packets of butter and jam.

09:00: Morning meeting. Patients at this stage of their recovery are often granted section 17 leave to enjoy sitting in the pleasant grounds, walks in the local countryside, days out in Hailsham and Eastbourne. Requests for leave are made, items from the safe are signed out, welfare slips are signed. Community meeting for all patients and staff so everyone’s voice is heard. “What’s been positive about the week?” “How can we support you?” “What have you done for the first time?”

10:00: Risk clinic. Nursing staff, the psychiatrist, the psychologist, occupational therapist and the social worker meet to update and discuss patient risk. Some in the room, some on zoom. Collaborative working with the multi-disciplinary team and patient is best practice to ensure the safety of all.

11:00: Family visit. A patient is meeting his niece for the first time in the family visits room. Lots of hugs and smiles. Every minute of the allotted hour is enjoyed. A refreshing reminder of humanity and normality.

12:00: Lunchtime medication. Patients report someone is feeling anxious and appears distressed. Staff thank the patients for their concern and the tearful patient is offered a 1:1 chat with the nurse. “How can we support you?” We look at the care plan together, take half an hour in the garden, put on a cup of tea. Let’s try some PRN.

13:00: Protected time. This is space for the team to meet together for training and time out. This week someone from another team is giving a presentation about how they work with patients and their families to help rebuild and maintain supportive relationships.

14:00: Reflective practice. This is time for the team to reflect on how things are on the ward, in confidence, with an independent facilitator. Working in mental health settings isn’t always easy, so this is our chance to talk openly about how we’re feeling and what we might be struggling with.

15:00: Break. Badger’s Café for some soup, bread and freshly baked cake.

16:00: It’s a nice day, let’s open the garden so patients get some fresh air and sunshine. Connect 4, football, the outdoor gym. Weeding and maintaining the herb garden. Other patients in the longue, music television plays, newspapers read, the clicking or pool balls, laughter.

17:00: Evening medication. “How was your day?” Alarms go off – staff spring into action. “False alarm” the radio confirms.

18:00: Time to reflect on the day. Writing patient notes, make sure everyone’s safe.

19:00: Night staff have arrived. Time to handover again.

No two days are the same on Elm ward, but we hope showing you a snippet of one of those days can show you what it's like working with us at The Hellingly Centre.

If you would like to find out more about working for The Hellingly Centre click here

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