Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (AUHFT) has been using trained volunteers to enhance end of life care for patients and their families/carers since May, 2012.

Volunteers providing this service are an experienced and very dedicated group who have undergone a two and a half day interactive training programme covering the principles of palliative care and symptom control, communication skills, clinical governance, spirituality and resilience. At the initial setting up stages a small amount of funding was secured from Cheshire and Merseyside Strategic Clinical Networks to assist with volunteer training.

The service has developed considerably since its inception in 2012 and is now operating on all Wards in the Trust from 8 am to 8 pm.

Volunteers carrying out this service sit with patients, hold their hands, moisten their lips, listen to their requests and generally show understanding and compassion to the patient and their family/carer. They also act as a liaison between the patient/family and the nursing staff, communicating any concerns in a timely and appropriate manner.

The volunteer companionship service does not replace the essential medical and nursing care that patients require in their final days and hours of life, but aims to supplement the quality and quantity of support for patients and their families. Being able to spend time simply sitting with a dying patient, talking to them and their relatives can be an enormous comfort and support at an emotionally challenging time.

The reassurance that a trained volunteer is staying with their loved one may mean that an exhausted relative can get some much needed rest or a meal, safe in the knowledge that they won’t be left alone. Having a volunteer on hand to alert nursing staff if the patient becomes distressed or unsettled relieves this burden from family and allows them to stay with their loved one. And of course for those without any family to be with them, the presence of a volunteer ensures that a patient doesn’t have to die alone.

Feedback from bereaved families has been extremely positive and volunteer companions carrying out this role feel that it is a privilege and an honour to be given the opportunity to contribute to the support of patients and families at end of life.

The volunteer companionship service has had a significant impact on the quality of end of life care that is delivered within AUHFT. It is the first of its kind to be delivered in a hospital setting and Aintree Volunteers are proud to be leading the way Nationally.

For further information on the Volunteer Companionship service at AUHFT please contact me and I will be more than happy to help. Gail Bruen Voluntary Services Manager Tel: 0151 529 3996/ e-mail [email protected]

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