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Posted on Jul 11 2022 by Fiona Bailey

A podcast which follows people with complex mental health issues such as psychosis and borderline personality disorder has been nominated for a top nursing prize.

On the Ward, which is hosted by mental health nurse John-Barry Waldron and features patients from St Andrew’s Healthcare, has been shortlisted for the Nursing in Mental Health category at this year’s Nursing Times Awards.

The annual awards programme brings together the nursing community, unveiling talent from within the profession, recognising those who are being innovative, patient-focused and inclusive.

The third series of the podcast is currently being broadcast with a new episode released every Tuesday. The newly updated format follows a different patient each week as they show John what an average day looks like for them while staying at a psychiatric hospital.

Vicky was the first patient in the new series who openly discussed her recovery journey from substance abuse, personality disorder and schizoaffective disorder - the name given to a condition which is a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar. 

During the recording, the 40-year-old attended a ward round and took John to her volunteering job at a nearby wood workshop called New Life Wood.

John, who created the podcast in 2019 as part of his dissertation, said: “I wanted to give a voice to those who are recovering from a complex mental health condition. At the time I was working with patients who were telling me that the stigma of mental illness has such a significant impact on their lives.

“To put that in context, a former patient once told me that when he has home leave, he would rather tell people he has been to prison than admit he has been staying in a mental health hospital. I think that says it all.

“The perception of psychiatric hospitals is when people are sent to one, they disappear from society. I wanted to find a way to give those people a voice and at the same time educate the public about the realities of mental illness and what happens at a hospital. We need to encourage people to have open and honest conversations about mental illness and I hope the podcast has helped make people less apprehensive about complex mental health conditions.”

John said before he launched On the Ward, he researched other podcasts. He said although there are many mental health podcasts out there, this one is entirely unique as it features sectioned patients who are staying in a medium secure hospital.

He added: “The patients involved in our recordings have been brave to openly talk about the issues they have. The feedback we’ve had from those involved has been amazingly uplifting. They’ve told me they feel listened to and were excited about the prospect of the podcast helping others understand what life was really like for them. Many of them have encouraged their friends and family to listen, so they feel less fearful about visiting those who have been detained.”

The podcast has been downloaded more than 20,000 times and has featured in numerous publications including the Guardian and the Independent. John has appeared in podcast publications such as the Pod Bible.

St Andrew’s Healthcare’s Interim CEO Oliver Shanley said: “On the Ward has been a huge success and we’re thrilled to have been nominated for this award. We firmly believe that the podcast is leading the way in breaking down typical mental health hospital stereotypes and showing listeners that just because someone may be experiencing mental health problems, does not prevent them having a voice about what is important to them.

“I would like to thank John for his commitment to the podcast and for bringing our patients’ stories to the mainstream. But, of course the biggest thank you goes to the patients themselves who have bravely agreed to participate in the podcast recordings.”

The podcast can be found via web browsers such as Chrome, Safari and Microsoft Edge or podcast apps, such as Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts.


The Nursing Times Awards will take place at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane in London on Wednesday, 26 October.