Wakefield’s Fieldhead Hospital celebrates 200 year birthday – West Yorkshire STP

Case study summary

2018 celebrates 200 years since Fieldhead Hospital opened in Wakefield, part of West Yorkshire STP – the thriving Creative Minds movement reminds us it’s not just technology that transforms lives…


The NHS’ 70th birthday celebrations have set our minds racing at the thought of robots, genomes and a host of Dr Who-like possibilities to keep us all alive well into our 100s.

But when the cocktail of excitement dies down, a quieter, slightly more modest revolution (and celebration) will still be happening.

It was 200 years ago Fieldhead Hospital, in the heart of West Yorkshire, first opened its doors.

A museum to the last 200 years, located in the grounds of Fieldhead, tells the story of mental health support and how this has changed and got better over the years.

A giant sculptured head, ornate on the inside with décor designed by service users, starts the cogs whirring, providing food for all our thoughts. It stands proud in the centre of the site as a reminder to all of what we’re talking about here – mental health and wellbeing.

Above all it’s a monument to the way mental ill health is treated on this site. South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has a reputation for creativity, it’s intrinsic in its philosophy.

Every week 1 in 6 adults experience a mental health problem, 1 in 5 adults has considered suicide at some point and every two hours someone takes their own life in the UK.

In 2015 61m antidepressants were dispensed – a 107% increase from ten years earlier.

Of the 300,000 people with serious mental health (SMI) conditions in England, such as bi-polar, psychosis and schizophrenia, many are dying of the same conditions as the general population, but up to 15 years earlier; they have the life expectancy of people living in the 1950s.

A review in 2015 showed people receiving creative approaches to mental problems such as depression, anxiety or trauma had positive improvements in their mental health symptoms compared to a control group.

West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership recently joined 13 other areas of the country in trail-blazing the NHS’ integrated care systems (ICS).

They are part of the biggest national move to integrate care of any major western country and will show how to build care systems that can better serve the needs of the public.

West Yorkshire and Harrogate transformation leader Rob Webster, leads the Partnership and is also CEO for South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, is proud of the Trust’s focus on sport, music and art.

He said: “Our Trust really shows how a combination of different types of support can work. When we work together for patients and provide what they need, personalising their care and focusing on them as people, their whole experience of ‘the system’ changes. We also see that they bring their skills and assets to the table. That’s why Creative Minds and Recovery colleges are so successful – we get things done by people rather than doing things for people.”

“Medication works for some people and art works for others,” one worker there said. “And then a year on, perhaps art works for one person instead and medication doesn’t. What works changes and we will provide what they need when they need it.”

Who could resist being in the ‘Good Mood Football Team’? And for those not ready for social sports the gardening offers solitude, space and escape.

Only a tour will expose the site’s size – in the middle of the beautifully tended gardens, a mind labyrinth invites people to enter and think.

The successful ‘Men in sheds’ campaign could easily have stemmed from this offer. Several of what I’d call ‘glamping’ sheds house the many tools used by charity ‘Creative Minds’ to get keen gardeners and blooming artists started.

Officially commissioned by the South Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, they help provide willing service users with any expressive art or activity which helps them to focus externally.

Debs Taylor (49) had been in the mental health system since she was eight. Seven years ago she was bed bound, took 21 tablets a day and was cared for by her children. She felt like a burden and tried to take an overdose.

She was told she’d never work again, would always have mental ill health and would be medicated for the rest of her life but after seeing an art class advertised everything changed.

“I went along and that was the day my life changed,” she said. “I started to do art and gained in confidence and ability; people were talking to me, not at me. Since then I’ve sold 119 paintings, had an exhibition at Canary Wharf and had tea with the Queen.”

Debs has been off medication for over six years, out of services for three years and now speaks at conferences to represent service users as well as working for Creative Minds.

“Everyone’s success is different,” she said. “At first mine was attending the art class and getting home without having a panic attack. One simple art class has done so much.” She recently saw her eldest daughter graduate with a law degree.

And Creative Minds also extends to DJ-ing, sculpture, music, art, drawing with many more on offer. Not only that, but service users, ex-service users, or members of the public are invited to share their skills.

South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s work reminds us computers are not the only fixer for all our ills. While they have some great digital developments, such as free Wi-Fi across their sites, their focus remains on people.

The Recovery Colleges they run enable people to run their own courses on a host of home-grown hobbies from robotics, to music, to book making or knitting. This can lead to a formal qualification or be just a way for people to build their skills and experience, but any knowledge shared is an intervention deemed to help.

You don’t need to be there long to notice the vibe – staff passing by are professional and cheerful and the well-being hub at the centre allows service users and staff to mingle and use computers, read and access information.

The chapel is a haven for all religions, for quiet thought and meditation and the chaplain links with the community spreading the word about mental health services on offer, often not accessed by seldom heard groups or cultures.

Fieldhead has a mix of different types of services from medium and low secure to acute admissions. £17m of the Trust’s own capital funding is paying for a new in-patient building, adding to the current build opened by the Royals in 1972.

It will be the latest fitting addition to a thriving site in its 200th year and a wonderful asset to expand a service we all know has never been more in demand.