To coincide with Volunteers’ Week, the charities Helpforce and Marie Curie have announced that they are partnering to increase the number of volunteers in end of life care within the NHS.
Helpforce was set up by Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett in 2016 with a mission to transform volunteering in the NHS. By working with Marie Curie, the charity for people with terminal conditions and their families, they aim to bring more end of life care volunteers to support patients dying in hospital and in the community.
Volunteers are already an integral part of services in hospice and some community settings, but volunteering varies significantly across NHS organisations, in terms of practice, scale, types of roles and how well volunteers are integrated with staff and clinical services. The two charities will work with NHS organisations across the UK to develop their end of life volunteering services. These will be locally driven, evolved in partnership with NHS and voluntary sector partners, and shared nationally through Helpforce.
End of life care volunteers are trained to support terminally ill people and their families, be there for them, and take some of the burden at a very difficult time. They can provide emotional and practical support, companionship and alleviate social isolation, as well as signpost to other relevant services. The partnership will identify, enhance and spread innovation with a particular focus on improving the well-being and experience of patients, staff and volunteers and improving the efficiency and impact of services.
Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett, Chair and Founder of Helpforce, said:
“There is significant untapped potential for volunteers to play a greater role in the NHS, and to better support patients, staff and services, and we are thrilled to be working with Marie Curie to develop and scale this vital volunteering role in hospital and the community.
“We know that many people face dying in hospital, and sometimes this is alone with no-one there to support them beyond the medical staff. We believe that no-one should die alone, and well-trained volunteers can provide enormous comfort and compassion to patients at this critical time.”
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of Marie Curie, said:
“The reality for some terminally ill patients is that they will die alone on a hospital ward, spend long periods of times on their own or have little company in hospital or at home. Others may have partners or family and friends present, but they can often feel overwhelmed and isolated themselves.
“We know from our own volunteering services how vitally important volunteers can be in supporting and enhancing the holistic care that people experience at the end of life, as well as reassure staff that their patients are getting the emotional, practical and compassionate support they need. We’re delighted to be partnering with Helpforce to deliver volunteering to supporting people at the end of life in communities and hospitals across the UK.”
Meanwhile, volunteers for Marie Curie have explained that they find volunteering is a life-changing experience. Lorraine Roberts, a former volunteer who was inspired to become a palliative care nurse, said:
“During my time as a companion I learnt many new skills. I felt a compassion on a level I thought I could never feel for people I didn’t know. On my journey with Marie Curie, the patients and their families, I felt sorrow, pain and contentment. Sorrow for the patients nearing the end of their lives, pain for their families, for the grief they felt at the loss of their loved ones, and contentment because I was with the families’ loved one when they died, giving the family peace of mind knowing their loved one was not alone.
“Being a Marie Curie companion and sitting with the patients, helping people at the end of their lives helped me come to the realization that palliative care nursing is the path I am supposed to take.”
Volunteers’ Week runs until June 7.