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Staff at St Ann’s Hospital, in Poole, have come up with a novel way to support people struggling with mental health issues, and help them get their lives back on track.
Patients are being trained as baristas and running a new ‘pop-up’ café at the site, which is not only providing a meeting place for people to socialise over a hot drink, but also helping service users work towards earning a nationally recognised qualification.
The Bright Bean Café, aptly named by service users, was the brainchild of Forensic Occupational Therapy Lead, Jenny Stickney and her team. They felt there was a lack of free space on the hospital grounds where patients could meet with friends and family.
“There’s a real sense of community among patients at St Ann’s, but the site itself does not have many communal areas. People need space to escape for a short time, have a coffee, and bring a bit of normality back into their lives,” Jenny said.
“This project not only delivers this, but also enables patients to learn new skills which can never be taken away, giving them the chance of possible employment when their journey here ends.”
Jenny and her colleagues initially pitched the idea to the Trust’s popular Dragons Den initiative, where staff present new ideas to help improve patient care to a panel, which awards money to develop the best proposals.
It didn’t win, but after seeing the pitch to the Dragons last September, an anonymous member of the audience donated a large portion of the money required, with the Trust contributing to help get it off the ground.
The Dorset-based Full Circle Coffee Company came on board to provide the machinery, coffee cart and the essential coffee beans, with owner Alex Morris training staff and patients in barista skills.
The café is currently located on the first floor above reception but will travel across the hospital site and spend time outdoors in the summer, where there’s room for seating.
It was officially opened by The Mayor of Poole, Cllr Sean Gabriel, in the presence of senior mental health figures from the Trust.
Colin Hicks, Director of Mental Health, said: “It’s great to see a project completely driven by staff and service users, giving people the opportunity to learn a new skill when they are in a really dark place, that they can take forward into their recovery journey.
“It’s often really difficult to engage with patients suffering mental health issues, but this initiative is bringing people out of their shells and giving them a new motivation.”
Patients admitted to St Ann’s are usually in the most acute phase of their mental illness, and the hospital’s six wards cater for both men and women over the age of 18.
It includes a psychiatric intensive care unit, a ward for older people with functional mental health problems, and a low secure forensic ward, where those with mental health disorders require strict, secure supervision, and their access around the hospital site is often restricted.
Jenny said: “The beauty of this initiative is that it gives everyone the opportunity to build better futures. All of our patients are welcome to take part and gain the qualification if they want to, including those with the most complex needs.
“The early signs are really encouraging, with lots of people coming forward to take part and learn something new, and it’s really helped build stronger relationships between patients and staff.”
The Bright Bean Café will be open on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11am-12noon, with opening hours likely to be extended over the coming months.
And all the money raised through coffee sales will be reinvested back into the café to keep it running.