Older woman holds man's hand in hospital bed

Companion volunteers in end of life care

Published: 28/10/21 | Categories: Volunteering, Author: Fiona Liddell

Three health boards have been piloting volunteer companion schemes and are looking to establish them on a longer term basis. Fiona Liddell, Helpforce Cymru Manager, celebrates the legacy of learning.

No one should die alone. Whether in home or hospital, a supportive companion at the bedside can make all the difference – a comforting presence for patients, and a reassurance for absent family and for staff.

A Helpforce report on from a UK wide pilot programme (supported by Marie Curie and Welsh Government), was launched this month.  End of life volunteer schemes were developed initially with 7 different NHS Trusts/Health Boards. Evaluation was undertaken by Helpforce, based on data collected and interviews with the projects.

All projects were impacted hugely by the Covid 19 pandemic, with lockdown being instigated just as they were starting. All have had to adapt to rapidly changing and challenging circumstances. As a result, the most significant shared learning is about the qualitative experience of setting up the projects; little data could be collected within the timescale and in many cases only now is it possible to consider having volunteers back on the wards.

The report gives ‘a snapshot of how services were set up and progressed, the challenges they have faced and the lessons they have learned’.

Colleagues from each of the Welsh pilots told a recent meeting of Helpforce Cymru about their experience. Their stories can be read below, together with the relevant Helpforce reports that resulted from the projects.

These projects leave a rich legacy of learning which we hope may inspire and enable others to develop volunteering in end of life care within their own organisations and context. If this is of interest I would love to hear from you. (You can email me on fliddell@wcva.cymru).

‘It is very apparent that the work they undertake as end of life companion volunteers is emotive and at times challenging.’ said Gino Parisi, Person Centred Care Manager at Aneurin Bevan UHB, ‘It is clear that they make a valuable contribution to the care we offer our patients and to our wards. In the counselling support sessions, volunteers have fed back that ward staff are very grateful for support they offer’.

In its Back to health campaign, Helpforce is committing to supporting Health Boards and other organisations with bespoke support in developing and evaluating high impact volunteering roles. If this is a service you can take advantage of then visit the website and get in touch.

Helpforce Cymru is working with Third Sector Support Wales (WCVA and 19 CVCs), Welsh Government and other partners to develop the potential of volunteering to support health and social care services in Wales.

Visit the Helpforce Cymru webpage, or to receive email updates, sign up here and choose the option ‘health and care volunteering’.