Raising awareness of End-of-Life and Bereavement Care in the North West

Compassionate and caring staff across the NHS in the North West are putting patients and their families first during the hardest times in their lives and ensuring end of life care is everyone’s business.

National Grief Awareness Week runs from 1 – 8 December this year and the Good Grief Trust  want to raise awareness of the impact of grief, normalise it and get the public talking, to each other and about bereavement generally.

In the North West we have some award-winning and nationally recognised End-of-Life and Bereavement teams, working to ensure that those at the end of their lives, as well as their families and loved ones are provided with wrap-around support.

The SWAN model of end-of-life and bereavement care, was founded at Salford Royal, spearheaded by Assistant Director of Nursing Fiona Murphy MBE, and is now used across the Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust (which brings together Salford Royal, Royal Oldham, Rochdale Infirmary and Fairfield General) and has since been adapted and used at other NHS Trusts around the UK.

The SWAN model supports and guides the care of patients and their loved ones at the end of life and after they have died. From handprints, memory boxes and support for those who are bereaved, the Palliative Care and Bereavement Services know that they only have one chance to get it right.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when family and friends weren’t allowed to be with their loved ones at the end of their lives, Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust founded the Cygnet Team, who ensured that no patient died alone.

The Cygnet team has since been named the Innovation Champion at this year’s Greater Manchester Health and Care Champion Awards.

The purpose of the Cygnets is to work with the SWAN nurses in delivering End of Life and Bereavement Care in multiple settings across hospital and community services, and to care for people approaching their last days of life, keeping them comfortable.

Families and friends could rest assured that in the hardest of times their loved ones were not alone.

Fiona Murphy MBE, Director of Nursing, palliative, end-of-life, bereavement and chaplaincy at the Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust, said, “I am so very proud of the Swan Model of care for end of life and bereavement. We are providing care that is patient and family focused and we continually evolve thanks to our patient, family and staff feedback.

“Our palliative care, bereavement and chaplaincy teams ensure that end of life care is everyone’s business.

“We have seen such outstanding care and compassion from our teams during the pandemic, with colleagues doing whatever was possible – within the restrictions we had – to safely support our end of life patients and their loves ones. We only get one chance to get this right.”

The SWAN model has been replicated across the UK, and earlier this year Jackie Brunton who is Lead Nurse for End of Life and Bereavement Care at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, was named ‘Nurse of the Year’ at The Sun’s Who Cares Wins Awards.

Jackie said: “However hard the times have been our teams stepped up and stepped in to try and comfort and reassure loved ones they were not alone. I am incredibly proud to work within the NHS and to be a nurse – and never more so than now.

“During National Grief Awareness Week we want to encourage people to make connections and help raise awareness of grief and the support available, it is often the small things we can do for each other that make a difference.

“This year the awareness week is promoting the benefits of activities including stopping for a chat, checking in on neighbours, putting the kettle on and going for a walk-and-talk.”

At Ormskirk Hospital, every December, the chaplaincy and bereavement midwives hold a memorial service for anyone who has experienced the loss of a baby or child. This year the service will be held at West Lancashire Crematorium.

There will be a Christmas tree of remembrance, and parents will be invited to put baubles with the name of their baby or child to be remembered with love on the tree. The baubles will later be moved to the baby garden at Ormskirk hospital.

Image: Jackie Brunton with her team and the ‘Nurse of the Year’ award

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