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Volunteers offer care and companionship to patients and families

Volunteers are a key part of the work of the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT), offering care and support to staff, patients and their families. For people in their final days at the West Suffolk Hospital there are volunteer ward companions (VWC), and a band of “blanketeers” bringing comfort to patients and their loved ones, and staff.

The WSFT palliative care team has recently reintroduced the VWC service, to support all staff in clinical environments with patients who are at the end of their lives. Trained volunteers will sit with patients who are alone; whose friends and relatives are unable to visit or can only stay for a short time. They can also support friends and family who are struggling emotionally and finding it difficult to cope on their own.

They can offer:

  • comfort and companionship
  • emotional support and empathic understanding
  • effective communication – knowing what to say
  • report any changes in condition
  • report if patient requests chaplaincy
  • basic mouth care
  • allow family/carer time away 
  • go to shop on behalf of family.

Michelle Buono, end of life educator for the Trust, said: “We will aim to train more VWCs as the role develops and as wards begin to use this service regularly. We would be happy to hear from anyone who would be interested in the role.”

The WSFT blanketeers are an independent group led by one of the Trust’s volunteers that create beautiful blankets for end-of-life patients. The group celebrated its third birthday in the summer.

Started in 2019, the blanketeers produce “comfort” blankets for patients in hospital, who may be nearing the end of their lives. The knitters can be staff, patients, or members of the public, and they meet once a month in the chapel at the West Suffolk Hospital. The group aims to get as many people involved as possible, to help create these colourful blankets, given to patients to help comfort them during their last days.

Michelle Buono commented: “The blankets brighten up the ward and the patient’s environment and help ward staff identify people who are receiving end of life care. Importantly they can then be given to a patient’s loved ones to take home and cherish.”

The My WiSH charity, which serves the patients and staff of WSFT, is closely involved with the scheme. The charity provides the wool and stuffing for the Blanketeers and would welcome any donations to support this great work.

Find out more about volunteering for the Trust in a variety of roles here: https://www.wsh.nhs.uk/Join-our-team/Volunteering.aspx

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Members of the blanketeers celebrating the scheme’s third birthday

Members of the blanketeers celebrating the scheme’s third birthday