Assistant Practitioner, Forensic services, Bamburgh Clinic, St. Nicholas Hospital

Jason Starkie - Assistant PractitionerAssistant practitioner Jason Starkie has worked in forensic services at Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) for seven and a half years.

Jason began his career in the Trust as a volunteer at Castleside working with patients with organic mental health disorders, before securing a job as a nursing assistant in the Kenneth Day Unit at Northgate Hospital in Morpeth. After 12 months in the unit, he had the opportunity to study for a foundation degree.

Two years later, Jason qualified as an assistant practitioner and now works on Oswin Unit, with patients who have personality difficulties at Bamburgh Clinic, where he has worked for three years.

Bamburgh Clinic is an award-winning acute facility for men who have a mental health disorder who have also come into contact with the Criminal Justice System. Part of the Trust’s Secure Care Services, it provides admission, assessment and treatment over three wards.

Jason’s role is to build therapeutic relationships with patients. He is also part of the physical health team, which involves monitoring the patients’ physical health as well as their mental wellbeing.

He says working in secure care differs greatly from other services. Patients have come onto the ward while serving a prison sentence. They normally spend around nine months at Oswin Unit before they return back to prison, or another setting that is able to cater to their individual needs, and support their progression through the custody pathway.

Jason said: “Because of the complexities of patients on the ward, we have to monitor risks at all times.”

For Jason, the best part of working in secure care is seeing the positive changes in patients.

“When patients arrive on the ward they are very unsure of their new environment and can be very distant and withdrawn,” he explained.

“Part of my role is to build relationships based on trust. After a period of time you start to notice a difference in the patients and the way they interact with others. I find this extremely rewarding.”

Jason also cites the opportunities for development as a great aspect of the job. As well as completing a foundation degree, he is now studying on the new nursing apprentice programme which will allow him to qualify as a mental health nurse.

He added: “There are lots of opportunities if you want to expand your knowledge and skills within the Trust. I have been allowed to pursue my nursing career for which I’m really grateful.”

Being able to build those important relationships is not always easy. Trust can be seen as a weakness in prison and a lot of the patients are reluctant to let people in. it’s Jason’s job to work with patients who lack confidence and positivity and support them to gain back life and social skills.

“I’ve been involved in patient care where we have been able to apply new skills which have enabled a patient to communicate more effectively with others without feeling abandoned or forgotten about. That’s where I really feel I’ve made a difference.”

Jason says he would recommend a career in secure care to anyone. “While it can be challenging at times, the job can be extremely rewarding. You’re able to improve people’s lives.”

CNTW is a leading provider of mental health and disability services across the North East and North Cumbria.