'There were so many people and so few staff." Highvolume Play Pause Stop

Dormitory on Ward E1 at Calderstones 1971.
Courtesy of Gill Cott
Although the date is unknown for this Calderstones ward, it is likely to be in the 1980s, maybe 1970s.
Courtesy of Gill Cott
Extract from interview with David Whalley, September 12th 2016. Audio: 2m 6s

David Whalley did his nurse training at Calderstones between 1969 and 1972.

Integral to the training at that time was working on the different wards at Calderstones. In this extract he describes some of the larger, traditional wards as well as pointing out the changes which were happening.


What were the wards like at that time?

The wards were very traditional still. Huge numbers of people, you know, 70, 80 on some of the bigger wards, you know with the beds in the dormitories with that much space between them, 18 inches or whatever. Run very efficiently, those large wards with large numbers of people. They were run very efficiently, but, inhumanely is maybe a bit too strong but, they had to be organised in a very military way, as you’ve described for Brockhall because there were so many people and so few staff. The staff didn’t do much of the looking after, it was always the ‘high grades’ that did most of the donkey work, looking after the more severely learning disabled folk. In amongst that, there were some bright corners, you know, where people had new ideas about trying to do things differently.

So what are the examples of that at that time?

Well it’s sort of, trying to look after people in smaller groups, we used to call it group management. So, you couldn’t do it on a ward of 80 people but on some of the smaller wards where there was maybe 40 or 50, you know, you’d try and re-arrange the ward so that people had their own, maybe 10 or a dozen people had their own living area and sleeping area if that was possible. Just to make it a bit more homely, a bit more less institutionalised, so there were little pockets of places, and I took those ideas that I’d picked up on to the first ward that I managed, which was a children’s ward.

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