Local MP visits special volunteers at Doncaster Royal Infirmary

Dame Rosie Winterton, MP for Doncaster Central, visited Doncaster Royal Infirmary earlier this month (4 May) to meet the hospital’s ‘Butterfly Volunteers’.

Introduced in August 2017, these specially trained helpers provide comfort and company to hospital patients during their final moments. Proving to be a hugely successful addition to the team, the volunteers spend time with patients when medical and clinical staff cannot. They will sit and talk, run errands and also offer respite to the patient’s loved ones, giving them valuable time to be able to go home for a few hours, safe in the knowledge that their friend, parent, child or significant other is not alone.

Last year the Royal College of Nursing released a study which described how many hospital patients were dying alone, due to the time constraints facing clinical and medical staff. Recognising that more should be done for palliative patients and their families, the End of Life Care Team at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals (DBTH) have been working hard to improve the experience of those in the final stages of life.

Dame Rosie met six of the 14 volunteers, discussing with them their experiences, as well as what inspired them to offer their time. Chatting for over an hour, the group described the role as a privilege to undertake, recounting how humbling, profound and comforting the time spent with patients can be and how they would encourage others to get involved.

Karen Lanaghan, End of Life Coordinator at the Trust, was also present for the visit, she said: “I want to thank Dame Rosie for coming to the Trust and meeting with the volunteers. The role they play is absolutely essential and we cannot thank them enough for their time.

“Due to challenges we face as a health service, we can often view a patient as a series of symptoms, rather than a person with hopes, desires and also fears. While it isn’t always possible for our clinicians to sit and spend time with individuals during the end of their life, our Butterfly Volunteers offer this crucial support. You don’t get a second chance at this kind of care and this is one way in which we hope to ensure that we get it right.”

This latest scheme is just one of a number of recent improvements introduced to end of life care at DBTH. In early 2017, the team introduced the ‘Me and My Plan’ project, which utilises a specially designed folder for patients, containing their care and treatment choices, personal preferences and information. Although a simple addition, this important document allows staff to avoid having the same conversations with the patient regarding their care, as well as serving as a crucial guideline when clinical decisions need to be made about later stages of treatment.

Dame Rosie Winterton said: “I was incredibly humbled to meet with the Butterfly Volunteers –  the service they provide for patients is profoundly touching and I want to thank them for giving their time in this way. Ensuring that people, as well as their loved ones, are supported as they near the end of life is hugely important. I want to praise the work of the Trust’s End of Life Care Team, and everybody involved in making changes for the betterment of the people of Doncaster.”

If you would like to become a Butterfly Volunteer, email dbth.butterflyvolunteer@nhs.net to find out more information.