Safewards Program

Safewards Program brochure

Working together to make inpatient mental health unit safer for everyone

About Safewards

Safewards is a program that encourages staff and clients, including carers, family and support persons, to work together to make the inpatient ward or unit safer for everyone. Safer means a calmer and more positive place.

Safewards uses 10 simple things that we - staff and clients - can do to decrease conflict in the inpatient environment.

The program has a successful track record, it was developed in the UK and has been rolled out in facilities in Australia such as within the Victorian Health Service.

Why is it important?

Sometimes because of conflict things happen on a mental health unit that can cause distress.  This can lead to staff using ways of containing an event such as moving clients to a more secure unit, restraint or at times even seclusion.

Safewards aims to lessen the use of these methods by staff and clients working together to make the unit more peaceful and friendly, therefore safer, for everyone.

How can I find out more?

Talk with the Nurse in charge in the unit if you have any questions or would like more information.  You can also contact the Mental Health, Alcohol and Drug Directorate on 03 6166 0781 or visit the Safewards website

Safewards Program - 10 things we can do

The 10 thingsDescription
1. Clear Mutual ExpectationsClients and staff agree on behaviour that is expected when on the inpatient unit.
This is then the standard for everyone.
2. Know Each Other Staff provide information about themselves that they are happy to share (favourite
TV show, hobbies, pets). Clients are also encouraged to share similar information.
This helps to start chats and is useful 'ice breaker' for everyone in the unit. 
3. Soft WordsVisual cues for staff about sensitive and respectful communication especially when declining requests from clients. Soft Words also encourages staff to reflect on the reason for declining requests.
4. Talk DownPosters for staff displaying the best ways of helping clients to calm down when they are upset, agitated or distressed. Staff also attend annual training in how to use these skills.
5. Bad News Mitigation Making sure that staff are aware when clients have or may receive bad news.
If consumers do receive bad news, make sure that they are offered support and a quiet place to express their feelings and be listened to by staff.
6. Mutual Help MeetingsRegular meetings on the unit where clients and staff are encouraged to identify ways of helping and supporting each other.
7. Calm DownA box of items that clients can use to feel calmer and more relaxed.
These can be tried out on the unit with the help of staff.
8. ReassuranceEvents that happen on the mental health unit may cause anxiety or distress.
After these events staff will talk to clients as a group on one on one to make sure that clients have support and understand what has happened.
Staff will also be more actively visible on the unit.
9. Positive WordsStaff remind each other to use positive words about consumers 
10. Discharge MessagesA display of positive and helpful messages written by clients and their carers before discharge. These messages of hope and support can be seen by everyone on the unit.

Does Safewards really work?

Mental Health Services in Tasmania have reviewed how it is working in Victoria and overseas prior to making the decision to implement the program.

We have also looked at the research supporting the program. Results show a positive effect over time.

Will it work for us?

We have consulted with staff and clients across our services and they think it will have a positive impact for everyone who takes part.

We welcome feedback from consumers at any time regarding the program, please speak with the nurse in charge in the unit or contact the Mental Health, Alcohol and Drug Directorate on 03 6166 0781.

Will we do all 10 things?

A lot of the actions are for staff to put in place, but we also need you to take part, as well as carers or other support persons.

Together we will learn more about each of the things we can do, and decide what is most important to do first on each unit. We can then work together to put them  in place.

What to know more?

To find out more about the Safewards Program talk with the Nurse in charge in the unit. We welcome any suggestions or questions about the program.

You can also visit the Safewards website