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2008, December 2nd, London South Bank University, Keyworth Centre

SKELLERN LECTURE, Professor Len Bowers - Time present, time past and time future: reflections on psychiatric nursing research. 

Introduced by Catherine Gamble


Lecture Synopsis: For 12 years the City University research team has been trying to develop ways to keep patients and staff safer, whilst reducing the use of containment methods such as manual restraint, coerced medication, seclusion and special observation. That programme of work is historically located within a critique of inpatient psychiatry which is of much longer duration than its current manifestation in the fault-finding reports of the late 1990s, and which stretches back to the anti-institutional discourse of the 1960s, if not to critiques of psychiatric detention in the 18th and 19th centuries. Yet it is possible to question whether such criticism, particularly in the present day, is well founded. Bed numbers and admissions continue to reduce, but are acute wards now really like PICUs used to be? Is violence increasing? Are staff suffering from low morale? Acute inpatient care is an important contribution to healthcare, yet this seldom seems to be valued by society, the NHS, or the Department of Health, nor is its contribution well articulated. In a context in which a sensationalist, scandal-mongering and scandal-creating media drives increasingly defensive, and therefore increasingly coercive practice, the City University research programme seeks to swim against the tide and carve out a new (and restate an old) discourse of consensual, respectful, low confrontation nursing practice as the best foundation for safety. The extent to which this can be achieved is as yet unknown, but there are grounds for hope for the future.


Professor Len Bowers pictured with Mrs Elizabeth Beattie (Eileen Skellern's sister) who presented Professor Bowers with his commemorative plaque.

JPMHN Lifetime Achievement Award: Professor Bryn Davis, University of Wales.

Introduced by Professor Dawn Freshwater, EIC, JPMHN 

Professor Bryn Davis – trained at the Retreat Hospital, York (RMN) as an alternative to national service. This was followed by King Edward VII Hospital Windsor (RGN), and Battersea College of Technology (University of London – RNT).


After staff nurse, charge nurse and nurse tutor experience at Holloway Sanatorium Mental Hospital he was appointed Principal Tutor there. During this period he studied part time for his BSc in Psychology at Birkbeck College, London. His final year project looked at attitudes to mental health nursing of students charge nurses and senior staff, including tutors. This led to the award of a DHSS Nursing Research Fellowship and with this he undertook his PhD in social psychology at the London School of Economics.  

The PhD study followed groups of students through the first year of training to see how their attitudes and their relationships with their significant others developed. This led to further publications, as chapters in books and in the first book he edited “Research into Nurse Education”. Following the Research Fellowship at the LSE he was appointed Deputy Director of the Nursing Research Unit, Edinburgh where he was responsible for a major part of the Unit’s research programme into Communication in Patient Care – including the management of pain. Several publications followed from this and research into the management of pain played an important part of his work from then on and culminated in the publication of his final book “Caring for People in Pain”.  After a period a Principal Lecturer at Brighton Polytechnic where he set up a new research unit, he was appointed to the post of Professor of Nursing Education at the College of Medicine, University of Wales, where he remained until retirement five years ago. Since then he has worked part-time as Editor of the Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing as well as a Non-Executive Director of the local NHS Trust in Pontypridd and as examiner for PhD’s. Elected to the UKCC in 1998 he acted as member of Council until 2003 when the NMC took over. He has supervised 20 PhDs and 10 MPhils, and examined 45 PhDs and 10 MPhils.  He has written one book, edited two books, and contributed several chapters for books edited by others, on the topics of communication, culture and health, mental health and the management of pain.


Respondent: Professor Cheryl Forchuk, School of Nursing at the  Unversity of Western Ontario and a Professor in the Department  Psychiatry, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry).

For the first time the award recipients were announced earlier in the year at the conference dinner of the MHNAs Conference (formerly NPNR) at St Catherines College, Oxford.  Russell Ashmore introduced the proceedings at the conference dinner. Cath Gamble read out the short list for the Skellern Lecture: Len Bowers, Cheryl Forchuk, Rachel Munton, Gary Rolfe.  Cath then announced that Len Bowers had been appointed to hearty applause and cheers.  Joy Bray  announced the short list for the JPMHN lifetime achievement award short list: Phil Burnard, Liam Clarke, Bryn Davis.  The appointment of Bryn Davis was met again with vigorous applause.


Mental Health Practice Journal Innovation Award 2008: Paul Lefever - Project Manager, Discovery Quest, A Walking Therapy Project. 

Discovery Quest is a Julian Housing Support Trust Ltd (JHS) initiative.  Paul was presented his commemorative plaque by Cris Allen.  

Short Lists 2008:

Skellern: Len Bowers, Cheryl Forchuk, Rachel Munton,

Liftetime: Phil Burnard, Liam Clarke, Bryn Davis

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