National award for team that brought joy to a psychiatric ward

Nursing Team of the Year (L to R) Matt Jarvis, Tryweryn Ward Manager; Denise Charles, Caniad Service Manager; Leanne Gill, Tryweryn Deputy ward manager; Tony Carr, Caniad; Mel Williams, Caniad Coordinator; Vicky Khan, Caniad; Stuart Tuckwood UNISON head of nursing. Photo credit: UNISON Centre


A small team in Wrexham has scooped the prestigious Nursing Times Team of the Year Award for their pioneering work transforming the Tryweryn psychiatric intensive care ward at Betsi Cadwaladr.

UNISON sponsored the Award and the trade union hopes the team’s blueprint: ‘Bringing joy to a restrictive environment,’ can be shared across the NHS as best practice improving the patient experience and the staff’s working environment.

The Tryweryn healthcare workers have been honoured for changing the ward culture by giving patients more of a say in how they wish to be helped, so improving their quality of life. Listening to psychiatric patients helps defuse the sometimes highly-charged environment and cases of them requiring restraint have halved in the last five months. Staff report patients’ laughter is much more commonly heard on the ward now as they feel more included.

The work at the Tryweryn is a unique partnership between the health board and the third sector. Caniad is commissioned by Betsi Cadwaladr to support service users and their carers. Caniad is supported by rehab and recovery charity CAIS and mental health charity Hafal.

Denise Charles, UNISON member and Caniad service manager said,

“Psychiatric patients can suffer trauma and paranoia and being in a restricted environment can heighten agitation. They’ve probably never had a say in their treatment before and when someone was in acute distress this could have lead to them being restrained.

“Betsi executives gave Caniad freedom to evaluate how we might do things better and our team, including past patients and their families began to talk to people on the ward about what they wanted. Now we say to the individual: ‘how should we help you?’ and this de-escalates tension.

“If someone is feeling like they’re not able to express themselves, they may become distressed. So we created a ‘rant and relax room’ where they can let off steam. It has a sofa, weighted blankets, calming essential oils, different lights and headphones to listen to music. The patients designed all of it.”

Matt Jarvis, ward manager said,

“The staff were doing a great job of managing restraint prior to the TODAYweTALKED intervention, but at times found it difficult to provide appropriate meaningful primary de-escalation techniques relevant to the patients of north Wales. With the help of Caniad, our patients had a voice and were able to give the team feedback on what they wanted from the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit service. When service users feel listened to and have appropriate things to do, this appears to have reduced violence and aggression on the ward.

“We calculated the use of restraints and resulting paperwork swallowed an average of 22 staff hours a month. So now we’ve reinvested that time back in prioritising a shared environment where staff and patients can express themselves positively together. We encourage staff to bring their hobbies to work. For example, staff who love baking and cooking have been baking on the ward with patients and supporting them to cook their own meals.”

Alun Thomas, Hafal chief executive said,

“Hafal is delighted that the hard work and commitment shown by the Caniad team of staff and involvers in partnership with the Tryweryn ward team has been recognised with this highly prestigious award.  Joint working to achieve the best experience and outcomes for patients is paramount and this award demonstrates that great work is being done in partnership between Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and Caniad.”

Steve Forsyth, Director of Nursing and Operations for Mental Health & Learning Disabilities Services, Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board, echoes this,

“I couldn’t be more proud of the team’s efforts, and this award is testament to their determination, motivation, high standards and values.

“The team are about having open and interested conversations with people and families who need support. By valuing and making the most of the time people spend on the ward, Tryweryn Ward staff along with Caniad have managed to create a wonderful therapeutic environment in which joy and laughter are essential ingredients to support people to recovery.”

Notes to editors

  • Matt Jarvis, Tryweryn ward manager was previously interviewed on BBC Wales on 13 March 2019 about reducing assaults on north Wales mental health staff
  • Find out more about Hafal
  • Find out more about CAIS


Alastair Gittins, UNISON Press Officer on 07816 538397