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HomeHealthNorthwick Park's 'Butterflies' support dying patients and loved ones

Northwick Park’s ‘Butterflies’ support dying patients and loved ones

A group of volunteers at Northwick Park Hospital are supporting dying patients and their loved ones.

The ‘Butterflies’ recently marked their 500th visit providing company and support for patients and their families as well as easing pressure on hard-pressed nursing staff.

“We launched the project last spring and the response for volunteers overwhelming,” says co-ordinator Lynn Green

“At present, we have 16 volunteers but could have filled the positions several times over. The volunteers provide company by talking, reading, playing music, or just sitting quietly with patients, particularly with those who don’t have any visitors.

“They also chat with families allowing them to take a break safe in the knowledge their loved one is not alone.”

Kanchan came out of retirement to become a Butterfly having worked more than 30 years at Central Middlesex Hospital. Her decision was shaped by the premature death of her youngest sister and the importance of being there for someone in their final days and hours.

Northwick Park's 'Butterflies' support dying patients and loved ones Harrow Online

“I’ve always enjoyed helping people and when I saw the advertisement for volunteers knew it was something I wanted to do.

“I go into every encounter with an open heart and will often stay and talk with patients even if they aren’t conscious. I believe people know you are there and that is some comfort. It is rewarding to know you may be making some small difference and just listening to someone talk about their life is often a relief for those who may have no visitors.”

Kanchan can see several patients and families during her once a week visit and, like all the volunteers, is trained in hand massage which she says often relaxes the patient.

Does she feel sad after a shift?

“No. It is a real privilege and honour. We all have to die sometime and letting people do that with dignity is important.”

Pippa Nightingale, CEO of LNWH Trust, said: “It’s a wonderful initiative and I am so proud that we are involved in it. Our nursing staff are always hard-pressed so to have these Butterflies come in and sit and talk with end-of-life patients is invaluable. We invariably focus on the efforts of our clinical teams, but these volunteers are to be applauded.”

The Butterfly Volunteer Project hopes to become a permanent service spreading its wings across the trust so it can provide support in other hospitals and cover in the evenings and weekends.

The programme is supported by The Anne Robson Trust, a charity set up to support the NHS to try and ensure people are not dying alone, and LNWH Charity whose funding has helped the project grow.