Wednesday, 22 December 2010

An outstanding hotel!

I know I always post a blog related to postnatal issues but just for once indulge me in this one!!

I am a firm believer in giving credit where it is due and to this end I would like to share my experience at the Salthouse Harbour Hotel   in Ipswich.
A couple of years ago I was invited to speak at a Mental Health Carer’s event in the town and stayed at Salthouse Harbour Hotel  for the first time.
Since then I have stayed in many other hotels across the world and still have never found anywhere that compares. One of my former colleagues used to say ‘never go back’ to somewhere that you had really enjoyed as it often fails to live up to your first wonderful time. Sadly this can often be the case.

Then as luck would have it I got the chance to return to Salthouse Harbour Hotel last week. Clive, my partner had been booked to speak to a client in Ipswich and as he was still unable to drive following knee surgery, I was required as chauffeur. To say I was delighted to be told we were staying at SHH was an understatement!

I wrote to the hotel and told them how pleased and I was and on arrival our reservation had ‘complementary upgrade’ written at the top. Whether or not this was due to my email I do not know, but either way we were pleased! Such as gesture is always appreciated. Likewise the warm and smiling reception we received when we walked in. On arrival I had been indecisive on where to park so we parked outside the hotel, not sure if we actually could or not.  When the porter pointed out that we would have to move he simply told me ‘No problem – I’ll move it to the car park for you’.  I got my keys back later with a neat key ring with our room number on it. Small touches – big difference.

Salthouse Harbour Hotel is a converted warehouse on the marina at Ipswich (yes it does have one!). Our room directly overlooked the yachts, boats and water from the large windows. The room itself was spacious with a huge bed but the ‘piece de resistance’ was the copper bath in front of the windows! Wow! 

The room was furnished with the best of linen, artwork, ornaments, and a stunning combination of traditional, new and quirky. A hotel room with character! That is rare!
The flat screen TV, Bose music system and even lovely chunky mugs and cafeteriere on the tray were all touches of luxury. Likewise one of the tables in the cosy seating area had some books on it. The overall feeling is one of TRUST. Even the hairdryer, which in most hotels is so often fastened to a wall by a chain big enough to restrain a guard dog yet so short that you are required to squat to use it, wasn’t fastened to anything. How many places have you stayed in where it seems everything is tied down? There were EIGHT, yes, eight pillows and the quality of the towels, toiletries gave the whole room an air of abundance that is usually completely missing in hotels. The trust and abundance builds mutual respect and relaxation. To top it off Clive announced that the wi-fi was also free and instantly connected with no messing about which for business people today is an absolute god send.

Other bits of an abundant policy was that if you left your shoes out in the corridor the night porter would clean them for you – and he did, beautifully! No doubt that task helps fill his small, wee hours but gives him a purpose too. You could order a full breakfast in your room and have the restaurant menu as room service AT NO EXTRA CHARGE! Fantastic!
Of course I had to use the bath! I have never before immersed myself in such luxury and was even able to watch television from it!

Dinner was of a high standard and served in the restaurant which is also filled with quirky and interesting ornaments including two pot zebras in a bird cage! There is something to look at every angle in this hotel. Even by the lift is a huge suit of armour – wearing pearls and necklaces! I remembered that the room I stayed in on my first stay had a stunning hand carved bedstead, so I am assuming that each room has its own quirks.
The bed was one of those you sink into and the goose down duvet and afore mentioned sumptuous pillows made it a very difficult bed to get out of.

The bathroom added to the feeling of luxury with a huge walk in shower with the biggest shower head I have ever seen plus and small spray. I could have stayed in for hours! The grey slate floor was so warm to walk on. Even the toilet seat had the gentle, no rush, take your time closure on it! The toilet paper and tissues were also lovely and thick unlike the wafer thin stuff you normally have to put up with. 
We went down for breakfast and explained that Clive had to go but that, once I had dropped him off, I would be back– our request for me to return later was greeted with the same positive reaction that all our requests had been met with. I took Clive to ‘work’ and I returned to a leisurely breakfast. I had decided to use the morning to write my Christmas cards but check-out was at 11 a.m. I asked if I could have an extra hour in the room and was offered three! At no charge of course! Yet another Wow!
When I checked out I explained I wanted to go into town to shop and was instantly handed a map, advised where the best places were and also told I was welcome to leave my car in their car park as it would be just as easy for me and, you’ve guessed it, NO CHARGE!
With an extremely contented but sad heart I left Salthouse Harbour Hotel . I want to go back!!!

We could not help contrast this experience with another hotel we stayed in at the previous weekend with the same 4* rating yet in a different league.
As professional speakers Clive and I are privileged to stay in many, many hotels, most are adequate but rarely do we come across two such extremes. This is the first time we have felt the need to feedback on what could have been a pleasant experience if only someone had bothered to give a damn about customer care.

* On arrival the 'doorman' greeted us with growls and complaints about waiting for someone “for the last 20 minutes”. Not exactly the smiling first impression we expected.
* The long walk to the room was through endless doorways, and in particular one doorway to an outside corridor didn't even have a handle on it and the bracket was hanging off the top.
* On first glance our executive room looked nice, but once in the bathroom the shaving mirror was hanging off the wall.
*The water from the shower was lukewarm to cold and the thermometer control fell off!
* Once out of the cold shower (I had closed the door) I was faced with a flood as it had leaked. I had to use the towels to mop up for the sake of safety.
* On going down to the event we mentioned our problems to the over-worked receptionist who took a note of our room number and request for clean towels and extra pillows. When we returned to our room four hours later neither aspect had been attended to.
* The food at the event was good for 'mass catering' and served swiftly and efficiently.
* The sound system in the event room was dreadful - muffled and then too loud.
*Breakfast in the room was an extra £10 ‘Tray change’!

The hotel has an air that there are plenty of staff but smiles generally are very thin on the ground which does not encourage you to return. When basics of customer care and service are grossly ignored recommendation is impossible.

This second hotel would do well to take a leaf out of Salthouse Harbour Hotel’s book! Care, trust, abundance and attention to the small details can make an ordinary stay into a magnificent one.
We have no hesitation in nominating Salthouse Harbour Hotel for a Customer Service Award. 
Somehow the other hotel is not yet ready for this!

Elaine Hanzak

Monday, 13 December 2010

Feeling stressed? Look at International Stress Management Association

I am grateful to my special friend Dinah for telling me about this site - International Stress Management Association

ISMA  promote sound knowledge and best practice in the prevention and reduction of human stress, ISMAUK is the leading professional body representing a multi-disciplinary professional health and well-being membership in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. has some useful information, downloads and links.

I must say that I do believe that some 'stress' is actually beneficial. I often get what some may describe as 'stressed' before I speak to audiences - my tummy may be fluttering, I can feel my heart racing, etc. but I now understand that it is my body getting ready to be able to maximise my performance! I heard this recently about an American baseball player who throughout his excellent career used to be violently sick before each game. Just before his retirement this didn't happen and his performance was dreadful. He had become blase. He recognised that the sickness actually improved his game and to embrace it - the last few games he was sick again and played amazingly!

I am not suggesting that we should be violently sick in order to achieve but what I am saying is that recognise that sometimes 'stress' can be a positive force and not always negative. It is how we use it that is important.

My regular followers may have noticed my posts have 'gone quiet' these last few weeks. I am actually being a 'carer' for once! My partner Clive had a knee replacement operation 3 weeks ago and I have been looking after him and enjoying every minute!  I am currently driving him around so he can speak to his audiences. .

Elaine Hanzak

Friday, 3 December 2010

Fears remain despite improvement in maternity services

Have a read of the report at

It tells that
Maternity services are gradually improving, but there are still some areas of concern, according to a survey of women.
The Care Quality Commission poll of over 25,000 found that 92% felt their care was excellent or good.
The poll also showed there was a lack of support over feeding, information on leaving hospitals and advice about how to get support for emotional problems.

CQC chief executive Cynthia Bower said the overall picture was "encouraging", but she urged NHS trusts to look at the areas they needed to improve.
The overall improvement has happened at a time when there is more pressure being put on maternity services.
The number of births has risen by a fifth in England over the last eight years to 670,000 a year.
The Royal College of Midwives believes another 3,000 midwives are needed to help the NHS cope, although the government rejects this because latest projections suggest the rise in births will tail off in the next few years.
Peter Walsh, chief executive of Action Against Medical Accidents, said while for most women giving birth was a happy experience, he was still concerned about the problems that had been identified.
He said the issues highlighted were "perfectly avoidable" and called for an increase in the number of midwives.
He added: "This report should be used as a springboard to tackle problems in one of the most important services the NHS provides."

Let's hope someone takes notice or we shall have more problems and avoidable deaths if not...

Elaine Hanzak

Patients Association Helpline - spread the word!

You may have seen in the press today the Patient's Association story of some appalling examples of care that the NHS delivers  ( )  

As someone who speaks to health professionals this deeply concerns me. Many of these people are unable to get any assistance to look at their case.  As a tribute to the wonderful Claire Raynor the Patients Association have launched an appeal to support its totally independent helpline.  If anyone can help with a donation or spread the link it would be appreciated.

I must also say though that my partner Clive Gott  has received nothing but excellent care from the NHS for his knee replacement last week.  

We just need to fight to ensure that people get the care he received and not the others listed.
Elaine Hanzak

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

New reports and findings on postnatal depression

Thank you to The Child and Maternal Health Observatory  for these postings:-

Treatments for postnatal depression assessed
News release from NETSCC, HTA    06 October 2010
Giving postnatal women antidepressants early in the course of the illness is likely to result in the greatest improvement in symptoms. This is according to new research funded by the National Institute for Health Research, Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) programme.

Postnatal depression is a substantial public health problem affecting around 10 per cent of new mothers. It can lead to long-term serious consequences for mother, baby, family, friends and colleagues. Despite its frequency and potential long-term consequences, only about 50 per cent of cases of postnatal depression are detected by health professionals. However, like other forms of depression, if detected, postnatal depression is easily treatable.

The team, led by Professor Deborah Sharp from the University of Bristol, compared the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of antidepressant drug therapy with a community-based psychosocial intervention. A total of 254 women were recruited from 77 general practices in England to receive either an antidepressant prescribed by their GP or counselling (listening visits) from a specially trained research health visitor (HV).

The results show that in the population studied where the prevalence of postnatal depression was just under 10 per cent, antidepressants were significantly superior to general supportive care at four weeks. There was a lack of evidence for a significant difference between antidepressant therapy and listening visits at 18 weeks as the trial design allowed women to switch groups, or add the alternative intervention at any time after four weeks.

“Although many women - at least initially, revealed a preference for listening visits, it would appear that starting women on antidepressants early in the course of illness is likely to result in the greatest improvement in symptoms”, says Professor Sharp. “There is an urgent need for GPs and HVs to agree the care pathway for women who suffer from postnatal depression, not only for the benefit of the mother, but also the child”.

Depression, like many illnesses, can be treated while breastfeeding without harming the baby. Breastfeeding women should speak to their midwife, health visitor or GP to find a suitable treatment. To view full details about this project visit: 

I FULLY agree with Professor Sharp's statement -  “There is an urgent need for GPs and HVs to agree the care pathway for women who suffer from postnatal depression, not only for the benefit of the mother, but also the child”.

Also look at

Children's Services Mapping: Perinatal mental health and infant mental health services
With recognition of the need to improve perinatal mental health services, questions were added to the 2009/10 Children’s Services Mapping (CSM) exercise to establish a baseline of service provision in England. The findings from the this mapping exercise are available - the data tables, full report and a national summary report can be viewed or downloaded from the CSM website.

Clinical Report—Incorporating Recognition and Management of Perinatal and Postpartum Depression Into Pediatric Practice

Every year, more than 400 000 infants are born to mothers who are depressed, which makes perinatal depression the most underdiagnosed obstetric complication in America. Postpartum depression leads to increased costs of medical care, inappropriate medical care, child abuse and neglect, discontinuation of breastfeeding, and family dysfunction and adversely affects early brain development.

Long-term effects of a home-visiting intervention for depressed mothers and their infants Background: Whereas preventive interventions for depressed mothers and their infants have yielded positive short-term outcomes, few studies have examined their long-term effectiveness. The present follow-up of a randomised controlled trial (RCT) is one of the first to examine the longer-term effects of an intervention for mothers with postpartum depression and their infants at school-age. In early infancy, the intervention was found effective in improving mother–infant interaction and the child’s attachment to its mother.

Helping children sleep
Sleep problems in children are very common and affect both the child and parents. This review summarises current non-pharmacological practices and intervention options to aid healthy children sleep. Identifying and managing sleep problems in childhood may improve health, including emotional well-being, in adolescence and adulthood.

Incidence of maternal and paternal depression in primary care
: a cohort study using a primary care database
The aim of the study was to examine incidence, trends, and correlates of parental depression in primary care from 0 to 12 years of child age. They found that overall incidences of depression from the birth of the child up to age 12 years were 7.53 per 100 person-years for mothers and 2.69 per 100 person-years for fathers.

The role of midwives in facilitating recovery in postpartum psychosis

Postpartum psychosis can result in an increased risk of suicide and infanticide and the symptoms can be frightening for the women who are affected as well as for their families and obstetric care providers. The women are often thrust into a mental health system that does not capitalize on the close relational bond that forms between midwives and those they care for over the course of prenatal care. The purpose of this article is to propose using the Recovery Advisory Group Model of mental illness as a theoretical framework for care of women with postpartum psychosis, to assist midwives in recognizing symptoms, define the role of the midwife in treatment, and learn the importance of becoming part of the psychiatric mental health care team in order to facilitate optimum recovery.

Elaine Hanzak 

Monday, 29 November 2010

The Parental Mental Health and Child Welfare Network study day 6th December

I have been involved in these days in the past and they are worth attending!

The Parental Mental Health and Child Welfare Network is holding its 7th study day on Monday 6th December in partnership with the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLAM), on 
Family Thinking: Keeping The Whole Picture In Mind Working With Families Affected By Parental Mental Ill-Health

*10 free places reserved for service users and carers*

**Draft Programme now available**

Sharing ideas and practice with others passionate about the needs of people in families – of all sizes and shapes – who have been affected by parental mental ill-health, can be an inspiring boost to us all.

To consider critically, government policy developments affecting working with families affected by parental mental ill-health. The day will include :

· News from the Department of Health’s Nurse Partnership Programme;

· Innovative thinking from John Burnham, Head of Family Services at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and renowned speaker and practitioner;

· The latest developments in sites supported by SCIE’s Think Child, Think Parent, Think Family implementation team;

· Personal experiences of caring for a parent with mental health issues from young carers supported by the Children’s Society.

Don’t miss this exciting opportunity – places are going fast. Thanks to a contribution from the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) we are able to keep our early bird price of £95 right up until the 6th December instead of charging £125 from the 11th of November as earlier advertised.

We look forward to seeing you on the 6th!

Tayo Richards

SPN Executive Officer  Social Perspectives Network   020 33971678    07949877111 

Elaine Hanzak 

Friday, 26 November 2010

Postnatal Illness - who knows where to refer to and what's on your wish list?

Last night I had the pleasure of presenting my story and suggestions on supporting families affected by postnatal illness to a wonderful group of midwives, nursery nurses and health visitors just outside Preston, Lancashire.

I was invited to speak by the very efficient  and the venue was amazing Ribby Hall. . The setting and food was great and the touch of hot chocolate and strawberries coated in chocolate just before I spoke was really special! I hope I get booked to speak there again and would recommend it as a venue.

It was a trip down memory lane for me as this was the area where I was born and I grew up on the Fylde Coast. I recalled happy Sunday afternoons feeding the ducks at Wrea Green village and was just sad that the timing was wrong to have some of my all-time favourite Bonds of Elswick ice cream. I was told it is still available! 40 years on and I can still taste it! Mmmm!

One special thing about the evening for me was meeting a lady who had read my book around 5 years ago when she was in the throws of extreme postnatal illness. She contacted to me some time later to say how it had given her hope and her family. Her daughter is now 5 and although we have emailed over the last few years we had never met until last night! I feel humbled and priviledged to help people but her story also inspires me to keep on doing what I do.

I was also thrilled to have two other trustees (I am one) of a new Foundation for maternal mental health in my audience. It was the first time they had heard me speak! Watch this space on the Foundation ....

I am always impressed by the dedication of the professionals attending these sessions. They are there because they care about the families they are dealing with. However, in chatting to some of them I was told that in some areas their postnatal support groups are being the first things being 'cut'. This is both shocking and very, very short-sighted as in the long run untreated and unsupported postnatal illness can lead to years of mental ill-health for members of the family; relationship breakdown; child protection issues and in extreme cases - deaths. If this is happening (cuts) in your area please can you let me know?

Another situation which I uncovered was that experienced and dedicated midwives DID NOT KNOW ABOUT THE WYTHENSHAWE MOTHER AND BABY UNIT!!!! This is a specialist unit on their doorstep and delivers excellent care. They admitted that if a lady presented with puerperal psychosis that they would not know whom to refer her to and because they are rushed off their feet, often they are even wary of asking how a newly delivered mother is feeling because if she answers negatively they haven't the time to do anything about it or how to help! I do not blame the midwives at all but 'the system' that is squeezing them so tightly. I have heard from many midwives who love their job but the pressures and reality that they are unable to be there for women as they should be is making them leave the profession. This is another scandal that has to be stopped.  Is it going to take the deaths of mothers and their babies before anything is done?

I am currently part of a group looking at improving maternal and infant mental health in the North West of England. I will do my utmost to represent the families in that area (and beyond) but I need to know some more details of what is or isn't happening out there and what you would like. Please leave comments here or email me at

Safe to assume I am angry and very, very concerned.

Elaine Hanzak

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Postnatal Depression Awareness Week - spread the word!

I have just received this message from Australia:-

During Postnatal Depression Awareness Week (14 - 20 November), beyondblue: the national depression initiative launched the Just Speak Up Campaign – a new awareness campaign aimed at pregnant women, new mothers, their partners and families.

Postnatal depression affects one in seven new mothers and up to one in 10 pregnant women experiences antenatal depression. Anxiety is likely to be even more common.

The Just Speak Up Campaign is the culmination of years of beyondblue research and evidence-gathering on the rates and risk factors associated with pre- and postnatal depression and anxiety – and the impact of not seeking help.

The campaign features TV, radio and print ads in which real people (not actors) talk candidly about their experiences of pre- and postnatal depression and anxiety, and how they got help. There is also a new website where their personal stories can be watched and people can upload their own stories.

There are many ways you can support the campaign:

Elaine Hanzak

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

'Just' Postnatal depression?

I'd like to share my day with you, if I may.

It started peacefully at my parents and I got myself ready to go to speak to 'Homestart' volunteers at St. Helen's - one of my regular sessions. Like many people I was then confronted by a frozen car; put my bags in the boot but then couldn't open the door! Last night I hadn't closed it properly and the damp air and ice rendered it immovable from the outside. Oh no! Dad wasn't around so I only had one option - crawl in via the boot!!! I smiled at the thought that if this had happened when I was suffering from 'just' postnatal depression, as some would say, I would have sobbed my heart out, punched the car or worse still. This morning I was just glad that I was wearing dark trousers and not a short skirt, clambered across the back seats and managed to push the door open, hoping no-one had witnessed my unladylike actions. Success. But then the ice wasn't clearing. No de-icer. Back in the house to get Mum and Dad's car keys - none in their car either. In getting their keys I walked muddy footprints on the hall floor. Aargh!  By this time the windows were clearing and as I had allowed extra time I wasn't in a panic. As I drove to St. Helens I reflected on these minor annoyances and again acknowledged that with a healthy mind and body you just take them in your stride. But for anyone suffering with 'just' a mental health problem these events could actually tip them over the edge. How do you cope with such things?

In years gone by I possibly would also have been convinced that a day that started so 'badly' would then go from bad to worse - I'd probably get stuck in traffic; the IT for my talk would fail; I would be late for my next meeting , etc. etc. In expecting the worse, it often happens. Instead I chose to laugh it off and decide that it could only get better - and it did. When did you allow a bad day to get worse?

I love speaking to Homestart volunteers. Through a network of nearly 16,000 trained parent volunteers we support thousands of parents who are struggling to cope. Our families need support for many reasons including post-natal illness, disability, bereavement, the illness of a parent or child, or social isolation. Parents supporting other parents - to help build a family's confidence and ability to cope.
Today was no exception.  One of the group actually had a daughter who went to school with Dom when he was little! Thank you to those who were brave and open to share some of their stories too. I hope I showed via my story that it's far from 'just' postnatal depression, but how severe the effects can be and the legacy it can leave behind.

Last night I caught up with a good friend of mine and it turned out that the company that she works for has just opened up an office in the exact building I was delivering to Homestart! So I called in to say a quick hello to  'Home Instead'  - Home Instead Senior Care provides award-winning home care to elderly people, allowing them to stay in their homes for as long as possible.
My Grandma suffered from Alzheimer's Disease and I know the impact that has on everyone concerned. I hope to meet up with them again soon.

From there I went to meet a wonderful lady called Sharon Hanner, who is part of 'A Quiet Place', which  provides evidence based, personal development programmes, supporting the achievement of unique outcomes for all ages and abilities. . A mutual friend, the amazing speaker Molly Harvey,, had suggested we meet. I am so pleased we did - thank you Molly! Sharon has kindly given me some of her materials - watch this space and I will tell you more! 

We met up at Nugent House school, where I had the pleasure of seeing first-hand a couple of 'A quiet place' rooms.  Nugent House School is part of Nugent Care, which is a multi-service agency, and one of the North West’s leading charities, caring for children, disabled and disadvantaged people of all ages. As a teacher for children with severe and profound learning difficulties my passion was around a multi-sensory curriculum. Now I suggest ways to improve and maintain good mental health is by appealing to and gratifying our senses. So this area is right up my street! I will report back more on these in the months ahead.

From there I met up with my little sis and gorgeous niece Sophie at M & S in Widnes

Then it was time for me to spend the evening with Dom. Since the divorce we try to see as much as possible of each other but I also really, really appreciate our time together even more. He is currently nursing an injury so I am in my element being able to 'fuss him' - as much as any 14 year old boy will allow! After taking him home I am now back at my parents reflecting on an amazing day, appreciating the wonderful people I have met and wondering what, if anything, it will all lead to.

Then I caught up with Facebook and received the link to this sad, sad, story.
My heart goes out to Katy and her family. We were only talking this morning about how your mind can be so 'irrational' that such actions seem acceptable and the right thing to do. Only when we are mentally fit and well do we realise what an awful situation this is. One day Katy will be 'better' than she is right now but she must live with the fact that she took her son's life. Sadly others will judge her badly for it. I only have sympathy and empathy. I know how 'screwed' your mind can get when you 'just' have postnatal depression. If only we could 'pull ourselves together', as those who are ignorant about the illness will flippantly say.

It disturbs me that 'cuts' may consider postnatal illness support, training and treatment to be a 'luxury' and something that isn't necessary. It sadly is too late for Katy and her family. PLEASE LET US KEEP WORKING TO ENSURE THAT SUCH THINGS DO NOT HAPPEN AGAIN.

So spare a thought, in this PND Awareness week, for those families that are affected by a mother or father suffering in the postnatal period. There is no 'just' about this illness. It is not due to them being lazy, a failure or overreacting to everyday hiccups like I had this morning. It is a real, and potentially fatal illness for some. It MUST be treated and prevented as much as is humanly possible.

Here is another feature on puerperal psychosis and PND this week in the Daily Mail - I get a mention.  

Elaine Hanzak