Posted: Wed 11th Jan 2023

John thought ‘he’d never get out’ of Holywell Hospital, then he met the Rehab Champions

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Jan 11th, 2023

A dairy farmer who collapsed while looking after his wife thought he would never leave hospital, until he was paired with an innovative team of healthcare professionals.

John Read said he had been “pottering about” making a cup of tea for his wife Kathleen at their home in Brynford, when he collapsed in July last year.

Initially he was taken to Glan Clwyd Hospital but was then moved to Holywell Community Hospital, where he met Rebecca Mcconnell, ward manager of Ffynnon B Ward, and consultant Dr KN Ganeshram.

John’s speech and mobility was assessed as poor and Dr Ganeshram suggested the 88 year-old may have Parkinson’s disease.

After he was tested and the diagnosis was confirmed, John became involved in a pilot which saw healthcare assistants trained as Rehab Champions take a leading role in his care.

The idea was to give healthcare assistants more involvement in the intensive rehabilitation needed for patients like John.



The aim was to maximise his chances of regaining as much of his former life back as possible and make a more sustained recovery.

Rebecca explained: “Rehab Champions evolved from a discussion with myself, matron and therapy staff. We agreed we needed more coordinated, patient-centred care.

“We knew if we could get a team together to do this, the outcomes would be better for patients.

“People have to think differently and more creatively because the model didn’t seem to work.

“We have got massive skills and experience within our healthcare assistant workforce. So by giving them the power to do these things it will help us and the patients.”

In John’s case the medication he was given allowed him to move his legs but speech and mobility remained an issue.

Enter the Rehab Champions, who set to work helping motivate John to regain as much of his speech and mobility as he could.

All the rehab champions started their roles in Holywell at the same time and have been in place for just under two years. They all recognised the benefits of adopting this completely new process from the start.

Occupational therapist Nicki Powell worked alongside the HCAs, nurses and physios who were helping.

She said: “John has singlehandedly proved this programme works. He’s gone from being completely immobile to walking.

“The whole programme is about valuing others and their roles.”



HCA Tim Dykin said: “As soon as I came in here I felt involved. From the word go I felt like I was part of the team and there was no hierarchy. We learned from the team.

“It’s 24/7 and it’s nice for us to be able to report back to occupational therapists, nurses and managers how people like John are getting on.

“It’s just so nice to be a part of this. It feels more like we are part of one big team.”

The aim was to put more joy into the workplace and give the HCAs a stake in making a real difference to patients’ lives.

HCA Amy Robinson said: “I worked in a GP’s surgery before I took this job. The pandemic made me want to take the next step, when the world was in turmoil and I was stuck behind a phone.

“It has pushed me to do more and have a bigger impact if I can.”

The team certainly had an impact on John, who can now get himself upright and out of bed, has walked 20 metres in the gym and happily chats about his experience.

He said: “Sometimes I feel I don’t want to get up. It takes a bit to start but the team help me to keep going.

“I have been well looked after here and there’s nothing I can grumble about. I’m quite happy.”

John has since been discharged to a step-down bed at Marleyfield House, Buckley, before he is reunited with his wife Kathleen.

HCA Tim Dykins said: “It’s been huge to be honest. When I first came here and Rebecca started talking about Rehab Champions, I thought this is a win-win. We get the patients out quicker and healthier.

“When John was really low, he said ‘I don’t think I’ll ever get out of here’. I told him he would and it’s great to see it happening.

“I make time to get people in the shower, feeling fresh and not looking like they’re in a hospital environment. It makes you feel better. Why be in your pyjamas all day when you’re in hospital?”

Rebecca Mcconnell revealed: “The fact John can articulate himself the way he can today, I can’t stress enough how far he has come.

“I cried when I went to the gym and I saw John walk. He did the whole length of the bars – 20m he walked. We call him ‘our John’.”

Nicki Powell added: “It’s been an absolute joy to work with John.”

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