The importance of holding end of life conversations, talking about death, dying and bereavement, is being highlighted in a series of events being organised by the RUH and Dorothy House in Bath.
The Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust and Dorothy House Hospice Care is supporting Dying Matters Awareness Week, 13th-19th May.
Helen Meehan, RUH Lead Nurse for Palliative Care and End of Life, said: “Dying Matters is not just about a person’s final days of life. It’s about the weeks, months and years before, and it’s really important for staff to be aware and understanding of the needs of people however close they are to the end of life.”
The first event at the RUH, on Monday 13th May, was a ‘See It My Way’ session for staff to hear from guest speakers about their own personal experience of the loss of a loved one.
The week, which is supported by the RUH’s charity The Forever Friends Appeal, will also see the official launch of the Compassionate Companions Service, a partnership between Dorothy House Hospice Care and the RUH Trust.
Specially-trained hospice volunteers offer support, compassionate listening, comfort and companionship to patients in their last days of life at the hospital.
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.”
Helen Meehan said: “The service will support volunteer time to be with patients on our wards. Being able to provide comforting words or to hold their hand is very much the support these patients need at this time.
“It will also give families the chance for some respite during what is an emotionally and physically exhausting time.”
The Forever Friends Appeal has been given has been given nearly £80,000 to help fund the Compassionate Companions Service by the Sperring Trust, the legacy of Midsomer Norton builder Ralph Sperring, who left his estate to benefit the local community.
End of life care at the RUH Trust has been rated outstanding by the Care Quality Commission in its latest inspection report in 2018.
The service has also been recognised by the Royal College of Physicians as one of four English hospitals leading the way in supporting end of life care and talking honestly and openly about death.
The College cited the Trust as a good practice case study for its initiative ‘The Conversation Project’ which was set up over five years ago.
The project aims to include earlier recognition of patients with end of life needs, to improve communication to understand what is important to the patient, and to improve information sharing and planning ahead for end of life.
Dying Matters Awareness Week at the RUH will also include a book club discussion on the international bestseller ‘Being Mortal’ by Atul Gawande, and an opportunity at the Spiritual Care Centre for staff to reflect, listen and talk about end of life care and spirituality.
On Saturday 18th May, a Service of Reflection for babies that have died, and the dedication of a remembrance garden, will be held at Haycombe Cemetery in Bath.
For more information, visit https://www.dyingmatters.org/AwarenessWeek.