A shed at Berrywood Hospital funded by Northamptonshire Health Charity is providing amazing benefits to patients with mental health conditions

Shed project at hospital helping to boost wellbeing for patients

‘Man-cave’ or ‘She-shed’ – call them what you like – but thanks to Northamptonshire Health Charity, a multi-functional new ‘shed’, introduced at a Northampton hospital, has proved a huge success in helping patients with wellbeing and recovery.

Berrywood Hospital, run by Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (NHFT), introduced the wooden ‘workshed’ in its therapy garden in summer 2022 and since then it has been used by patients with mental health conditions as a space for reflection, socialising, and activities. The shed space is also helping patients to build useful skills in preparation for returning home.

These skills include bike maintenance, furniture restoration, DIY and gardening, all of which are beneficial for wellbeing, executive functioning and skill development. Patients have helped make seating, planters and raised flower beds, bird tables, artwork and sculptures, as well as other features to promote tranquillity and reflection.

Jenni Jenkins, Specialist Occupational Therapist at Berrywood Hospital, said: “The workshed has been an absolute success at Berrywood. Patients from our adult and older adult wards come together to benefit from a wide variety of activities. In this supportive setting, we observe individuals grow in confidence as they learn new skills and take part in routines which support their recovery and aid independent living. It is an environment where people connect over shared projects, both large and small, leading to our patients working together, developing their problem-solving skills, resulting in a sense of achievement and satisfaction.

Case studies:

#1 – A female service user was very hesitant to come to the shed and was also hesitant to start any project. However, within a few sessions, she was asking to come to the shed more and more, and partook in three or four sessions a week. Initially she would only work on her own, but soon became willing to join in with group projects. Her skills and confidence grew so quickly, that she enrolled on a carpentry course at Northampton College.

#2 – A male service user had vast experience of working with many different materials and had previously worked as an art teacher, but he hadn’t been able to do anything creative for some time. He started by helping finish off some projects that others had started. Within a month, he was not only working on his own and group projects, but was also incredibly supportive to other service users, so much so that he was asked to return as a volunteer for NHFT. He also designed and produced some products to sell at a ‘Therapy Team’ fundraiser from his own designs.

#3 –A male service user was a retired carpenter. He was not eating properly, struggling to sleep, having extra medication daily, was being aggressive and was unable to get himself washed and dressed in the morning. Within a very short time of attending daily shed sessions, he began eating regular meals, sleeping though the night, stopped being aggressive, and was able to get himself washed and dressed each day. He came to the shed every morning to support staff to prepare for the day’s sessions. Helped design and build a wood store and even taught staff some techniques with certain tools.

Rob Powell, Charity Communications and Marketing, said: “We have been thrilled to hear so many amazing stories about the positive impact the workshed, that we funded at Berrywood Hospital, is having for patients. It is wonderful how having access to this space, the resources it affords, and the skills people can develop, has helped massively with their recovery. To ignite a new or dormant passion that goes on to increasing confidence and provide a real sense of achievement is brilliant. All this is thanks to our generous supporters donating to Northamptonshire Health Charity so that we can make a difference by supporting projects like this.

Jenni Jenkins added: “This project has been a springboard through which we have been able to support individuals to access further education, work and leisure groups in the community.  Above all else, the shed is valued as an area off the ward that provides peace and a space where coping strategies can be practised to improve wellbeing. It provides opportunities for reflection as individuals look towards their future outside of the hospital. As a team, we are incredibly grateful to Northamptonshire Health Charity for providing this therapeutic workplace and look forward to future developments in this area.

To find out more about how donations can make a difference to our local NHS hospitals and community healthcare services, and to make a donation, visit the charity’s website: https://northamptonshirehealthcharity.co.uk/