Background Dying patients in hospital may have little emotional support at the end of their life and may die alone. Alongside this, family and friends can feel isolated and overwhelmed by the experience. A key challenge for hospitals is how to provide emotional support when staff are needed to provide nursing care on busy wards.
A charity trained 28 volunteer “companions” to accompany, advocate and support people during this difficult time. Supported by a service manager, the “companions” deliver emotional comfort 12 hours a day, every day of the year.
Aims The main objectives of this innovative service are:
to provide emotional support to the dying and their families
to facilitate increased understanding about the emotional and social needs of the dying, and their families, within the community and across the hospital environment.
Methods On the whole, healthcare professionals refer patients/families to the service manager who then meets the patients/families to understand their needs. An appropriate “companion” is allocated by the service manager and the “companion” is then introduced to the patient/family to provide face-to-face support tailored to their needs.
The service is evaluated on a continuous basis, using:
Stakeholder feedback: from patients/families, staff and “companions” to explore the impact of the service on improving emotional support
Activity data: completed by the “companions” capturing what support was delivered.
Results An earlier review suggested that hospital staff, dying patients and their families had very positive experiences of the service, with nursing staff seeing benefits in terms of patient and family wellbeing and their own stress levels.
The initial pilot has increased from three adult wards to supporting all 20, and has received over 250 referrals since launch in August 2014.
The service is the only one of its kind in the country, and was outlined in the Care Quality Commission report as an example of outstanding practice.
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