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Staff ‘champions’ encouraging talk about end of life care

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Staff at a London trust are being encouraged to talk more openly about death and bereavement to improve support for both patients nearing the end of their lives and those involved in their care.

The palliative and end of life care team at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust has enlisted the help of 60 end of life care “champions”, including nurses, doctors, ward housekeeper, porters and its spiritual care team, to raise awareness of the “often taboo subject”.

“We all need to be discussing the kind of care and support we would like at the end of our lives”

Maggie Kennedy

The champions attend monthly meetings where they discuss examples of good practice and the impact bereavement has on not only the people who are important to the patient but also staff.

The information is then shared through their own team meetings to ensure greater understanding, said the trust.

Maggie Kennedy, an end of life care clinical nurse specialist, founded the end of life care champions’ network, said:

“People are living longer, sometimes with chronic illness,” she said. “Yet we all need to be thinking about, and discussing in advance, the kind of care and support we would like at the end of our lives.

“When a patient is coming towards the end of their life this can affect a whole range of staff who are in contact with the patient – nurses, doctors, admin staff, porters,” she said.

“It’s important to acknowledge the role these staff play in end of life care and ensure they feel supported,” she noted.

“By listening to the experiences of other staff, we will become better nurses”

Grace Fowler-Roughton

One of the champions is Grace Fowler-Roughton, a King’s College London student in the final year of the Postgraduate Diploma in Adult Nursing who is currently on placement at the trust.

She has taken an innovative approach to sharing her experience from the champions’ meetings by recruiting fellow students to act as end of life care champions, providing regular email updates and running teaching sessions to share learning.

Ms Fowler-Roughton: “By being better prepared for issues around end of life care and listening to the experiences of other staff, we will become better nurses. Ultimately we will give our patients the very best care, whatever their stage of life.”

A spokeswoman told Nursing Times that the trust wanted to highlight the network, which began in January 2016, to help mark Dying Matters Week, which starts on the 8 May. 

The trust is one of 10 in England taking part in the National Council for Palliative Care Building on the Best programme.

It aims to improve palliative and end of life care by making information more accessible to patients and their families, encouraging shared decision making, and improving pain and symptom management.

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