Laughter is the best medicine at Swaffham Community Hospital

A programme of fun activities at a community hospital has helped to halve the time patients stay on a ward, health chiefs have claimed.

Senior nurse Julie Chick has led the development of a series of social events at Swaffham Community Hospital for patients on the hospital's 18-bed in-patient general rehabilitation ward.

Activities have included visiting Christmas choirs, pamper afternoons and movie mornings, as well as giant floor board games or quiet chats and bedside support for patients who are too unwell.

Outcomes have included helping reduce the average stay of patients from 25 to 13 days in recent months, boosting the mood and morale of patients, and increasing confidence of patients and relatives on discharge from the unit.

The changes have received a thumbs up from patients, helping deliver high satisfaction ratings in patient experience surveys.

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Mrs Chick said: 'I love my job, and it is good for me too. My bosses and colleagues have been so supportive in allowing me to develop this programme and I get so much out of it.

'It's about having a chance to put your illnesses to one side, even for a short time, and to chat and laugh, and do something relaxing or fun to get your spark back again. I suppose it's rehabilitation for the soul or personality as much as for the body.'

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Ward manager Diana Smith said: 'Her hard work is having such a huge impact. We're sure that her efforts have been a big factor in helping to reduce the length of stay for patients, getting them back on their feet and recovered to be able to go home quicker.

'Our patients used to ignore the day room, now they can't wait to get down there; and they all ask for her on her days off. Relatives have told us how grateful they have been to see the difference the activities are making and have started bringing in prizes for the quizzes and competitions she runs.'

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