Beds, Herts & Bucks

Stevenage hospital volunteers support end-of-life patients

Holding the hand of an elderly patient in a hospital bed Image copyright SPL
Image caption The Butterfly volunteers give support to patients who may be alone in their final hours

A hospital scheme providing one-to-one companionship for patients in the last days of their lives is to expand.

The Butterfly Volunteers, at Lister Hospital, Stevenage, visit people who have few or no other visitors.

The project, created in May 2016, has built up a team of about 20 volunteers with the aim of making sure no-one dies alone.

Since then, the "absolutely brilliant" team has visited and spent time with 312 adults.

'Reassuring'

"It's about giving them as good a death as possible," said hospital spokesman Peter Gibson.

"Quite often the patient is not going to be conscious or aware of their surroundings - sometimes it's as simple as holding someone's hand."

Image caption "One of the Butterfly ladies sat with us for three to four hours until mum passed, she cuddled us and offered words of support," said Carol

Carol Bedford, from Stevenage, said work and family commitments meant it had not always been possible for her or her sister to visit their mother Grace Busby in the three-week period she was in hospital before she died, aged 90, in May.

"It was reassuring that someone was with her if we couldn't get there," she said.

"The ladies from Butterfly were absolutely brilliant - they used to hold her hand, offer words of comfort, so we knew mum did have someone with her all the time."

Image caption Carol Bedford said the Butterfly Volunteers make a big different to patients who have not got any visitors

The team has been awarded £64,450 to help to expand.

"The donation from the Dunhill Medical Trust will allow us to consistently extend the service to seven days a week, recruit more volunteers, with the aim of making 6,000 visits over the next three years," said volunteer co-ordinator Angela Fenn.

Peter Gibson explained that people die alone in hospital for many reasons.

"They may have family, but not necessarily nearby, perhaps overseas, or on holiday, and increasingly families are becoming smaller so the numbers of people to be there for somebody in their last hours is becoming limited," he said.

Image copyright Butterfly Volunteers
Image caption Angela Fenn (second from right) with some of the other Butterfly Volunteers

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