Health Service Focus

30.10.19

Palliative care volunteering – Lancaster Uni

Source: NHE Oct/Nov 2019 

 

Professor Catherine Walshe, head of health research at Lancaster University and an expert in palliative and end-of-life care, explains the benefits of investing in end-of-life care volunteers in hospitals.

Dying in hospital is something that many of us can expect. Nearly half of all deaths currently happen in hospital, but dying in hospital isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

When we think about hospital care for people who are dying we probably imagine nursing care, supported by a team of doctors, allied health professionals, and other staff. As a nurse myself, I know how important this team is.

We may not necessarily think about the important roles that volunteers can play within hospitals.  Volunteers are a mainstay of much hospice and palliative care here in the UK, and there are over 125,000 volunteers contributing to hospice care in a variety of roles.

However, there are far fewer volunteers within the NHS, and even fewer again volunteering with those who are dying. Change, though, is on the way.

Volunteers can provide companionship, and offer a listening ear. They can also provide practical support, run errands, and try to ensure the patient has what they need. They have dedicated time to spend with allocated patients, giving them high quality attention.

With growing evidence showing the impact of volunteers’ support on patients, their families and staff, it is now time for senior leaders in the NHS to work together to build volunteering services that commit to supporting patients with end-of-life care needs.

There are many challenges that the NHS needs to take into account. Volunteer services take investment and require training and support to ensure volunteers are prepared to handle sensitive situations.

It's hard work and doesn't happen overnight, but with the right tools and support, it is likely to make a difference to dying people and their families.

Providing excellent end-of-life care cannot be done by clinical teams only. It is collaborative work where all parties must come together, ensuring everyone receives personalised end-of-life care.

Tell us what you think

E: opinion@nationalhealthexecutive.com

Tw: @nhenews

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