A new volunteer service offering support, compassionate listening, comfort and companionship to patients in their last days of life has been launched at the Royal United Hospital in Bath.
The Compassionate Companions Service is a joint partnership between Dorothy House Hospice Care and the RUH – organisations that are both rated outstanding in end of life care by the Care Quality Commission.
The service has been funded for three years by the Sperring Trust, the legacy of Midsomer Norton builder Ralph Sperring, who left his estate to benefit the local community.
At the launch, RUH Director of Nursing and Midwifery Lisa Cheek thanked the Sperring Trust, Dorothy House and the RUH Palliative Care and End of Life Team for all of their hard work to establish the Compassionate Companions Service.
Helen Meehan, Lead Nurse, Palliative Care and End of Life Team said: “I have always felt privileged to work in end of life care. I believe that our final hours are as precious as our first.
“Compassion underpins everything we do and this service will allow volunteers to be on our wards, providing patients with comforting words, a listening ear or to hold their hand – the support these patients very much need.
“It will also give families the chance for some respite during what is an emotionally and physically exhausting time.”
Guests at the event heard from Susie Slade, RUH Respiratory Ward Manager, who shared the story of a patient who had been supported by the Compassionate Companions Service.
He was well-known by staff as a humorous and gregarious character and was especially grateful for the relief the service gave his family, knowing they could be assured he always had someone around to keep him company when they weren’t able to be there.
Compassionate Companions volunteer Colin Johnston said: “As soon as I heard about the service, I remember thinking, this is special and something I can do.
“We get so much positive feedback. Once a patient told me how much he appreciated having me there, even to do something as simple as pass him glasses of water.
“He said he didn’t like to ring the bell and bother the staff for such small things – so British!”
Wendy Meilton, Companions Service Lead at Dorothy House Hospice Care said: “We are delighted that the hospice is able to provide this vital end of life support for patients and their families in collaboration with the RUH.
“Our role is to train hospice volunteers in patient support techniques and co-ordinate their work in the Compassionate Companions Service at the hospital.”
The launch coincides with Dying Matters Week to highlight the importance of holding end of life conversations – talking about death, dying and bereavement.