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Harlow project that supports volunteers in offering a comforting presence for patients at end of their lives recognised at national awards

Charity / Sun 17th Nov 2019 am30 10:54am

A PROJECT that supports volunteers in offering a comforting presence for patients at the end of their lives recognised at finals of national awards

The Butterfly Volunteers are a team of volunteers who offer a comforting presence, supporting the holistic care of patients as they near the end of their lives.

It is a challenging role that requires a delicate, sensitive approach, for which the Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust (PAHT) provides specialist training. It is for this training programme, delivered in conjunction with a charity, The Anne Robson Trust, that

The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust (PAHT) reached the finals of the recent national Nursing Times Awards.

The nomination of the project by Shahid Sardar, associate director of patient engagement (pictured, on the right, with Nicki Harris, Butterfly Volunteers Coordinator), was in recognition of the enhanced patient dignity achieved through the Butterfly Volunteers programme for patients nearing the end of their lives, which launched in 2017.

Shahid Sardar, associate director of patient engagement, said: “For those patients who die in hospital, our clinical team are dedicated to ensuring that their experience is as comfortable as possible. As a result of this focus, we identified a need for personal support in palliative care and embarked on a search for volunteers who would like to help our patients.

“We were delighted with the response – 48 people nominated themselves to become ‘Butterfly Volunteers’, specialising in helping end of life patients.”

Together with The Anne Robson Trust, the volunteers are trained on topics such as what physical changes to expect when a person is dying, how to give space to patients and families to talk about how they are coping and creating a space to talk about what gives patients joy and purpose in their life.

The 30 volunteers, who are now in place, are able to offer a comforting presence for patients at the end of their life and can be someone to talk to when patients, families or carers may be lonely or frightened.

Since the programme began, 1,535 visits have been made to patients, 819 hours have been spent by the bedside and hundreds of positive messages from families and carers have been received.

Shahid concluded: “Reaching the finals of the Nursing Times Awards was an amazing experience for everyone involved in the programme.

“It was humbling to see the programme acknowledged by our colleagues across the NHS. We are now working to continue rolling out the programme and growing our numbers of volunteers.

“Our Butterfly Volunteers are inspirational and their gentle presence, comfort, support and kindness are so beneficial for our patients and their families at such a difficult time.”

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