"I’ll never forget things like bath nights." Highvolume Play Pause Stop

This is a photo of a bathroom in a ward for women at another Lancashire institution - the Royal Albert. The photo was taken in 2006, at which point the ward was in a state of neglect.

John, born in 1960, was a Nursing Auxillary at Brockhall Hospital for about a year from 1982 to 1983. He worked mainly on the children’s wards.

Every now and then would be called to one of the male wards because they were short of staff. In this audio extract he recalled what it was like on one of these adult wards.


‘And I’ll never forget some days when we’d have 4 or 5 staff on with the kids, we’d get  a phone call coming through from one of the Officers saying, On one of the male wards they’re short staffed today. You need to send somebody across. And I’d hate that phone call coming through. I remember that. Because I didn’t spend many days on the male wards but those days that I was across there it was very, very different. And I thank my lucky stars that I was with the kids on Lilac or Laburnum. ‘Cause it was, it was only a few hundred yards away but it could have been a million miles away from each other. The differences were incredible really.

“And the fact that they were totally unkempt. They’d do the bundles every night. They’d get the trousers, the shirt, the underpants, the cardigans whatever it was, just roll them all up. Nothing fit. Nothing was personalised at all. They were completely stripped of any individuality or any personalisation. Very little for people during the day to go to. They had a kind of contract area, there were was animals, and a few people would drift off during the day. But the vast majority would sit there in a massive day room, with no stimuli. I can’t even remember there being a television. There was always music blaring. I remember there was always music. And very little interaction. What staff there was – And some days you’d have, particularly – my experience of the male ward I’d go with maybe one other auxillary and then another Charge nurse. There’d be like 3 of us. And there could be 25, 30 men that needed some kind of care and support. And you just couldn’t provide it in a dignified way really with respect and everything else.

“And that was the frustration to me, ’cause I’ll never forget things like bath nights. Everyone had their bath night. You’d probably get two baths a week. Fantastic! But if it wasn’t your night for a bath then you couldn’t have one. But it was the way it was done. To be honest it was more like  a sheep dip. You’d probably get about six to eight men, undressed, get them in a dressing gown, collectively bring them through to the, what they used to call them ‘down the backs’… And that was the big bathroom area, which was huge. It was massive. There was one big bath I remember in the middle of this, and then urinals and then lots of cubicles that only had half sized doors on. So there’s no privacy at all. But I remember over the bath there was this shower. And I remember the Charge Nurse with the shower in his hand and these guys would be kind of lined up and as you got closer to the bath you’d be stripped of your dressing gown. You’d stand in the bath. The bath wasn’t even full of water. It was an empty bath. But the shower was permanently on. And he’d just kind of rinse them down. And then somebody would kind of like sponge them etc. No time to say, What can you do for yourself? Or any thing like that. You’re just told to stand still. Had a wash. Showered out. And then out of the bath at the other end. And somebody’d be there with  a towel. Next person stripped off, in, showered down, washed. And then dried etc. But it literally was a conveyance belt. There was nothing personal. There was nothing private. There was no dignity… And it’s memories like that that I recall that really questioned, What the hell am I doing here?

Did you think that at the time?

Yeah. Several times. What am I doing?

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