Partnering with Marie Curie to increase end of life care volunteer services in the NHS

3rd June 2019

Helpforce is delighted to partner with Marie Curie, the UK charity for people with a terminal illness and their families. Together we will bring more end of life care volunteers to support patients dying in hospital and in the community.

Volunteers are already an integral part of services in hospice and some community settings, but volunteering varies significantly across NHS organisations, in terms of practice, scale, types of roles and how well volunteers are integrated with staff and clinical services. Together we will work with NHS organisations across the UK to develop their end of life volunteering services. These will be locally driven, evolved in partnership with NHS and voluntary sector partners, and shared nationally through Helpforce.

End of life care volunteers are trained to support terminally ill people and their families, be there for them, and take some of the burden at a very difficult time. They can provide emotional and practical support, companionship and alleviate social isolation, as well as sign post to other relevant services. The partnership will identify, enhance and spread innovation with a particular focus on improving the well-being and experience of patients, staff and volunteers and improving the efficiency and  impact of services.

Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett, Chair and Founder of Helpforce says:

“There is significant untapped potential for volunteers to play a greater role in the NHS, and to better support patients, staff and services, and we are thrilled to be working with Marie Curie to develop and scale this vital volunteering role in hospital and the community. We know that many people face dying in hospital, and sometimes this is alone with no-one there to support them beyond the medical staff. We believe that no-one should die alone, and well-trained volunteers can provide enormous comfort and compassion to patients at this critical time.”

Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of Marie Curie says:

“The reality for some terminally ill patients is that they will die alone on a hospital ward, spend long periods of times on their own or have little company in hospital or at home. Others may have partners or family and friends present, but they can often feel overwhelmed and isolated themselves. We know from our own volunteering services how vitally important volunteers can be in supporting and enhancing the holistic care that people experience at the end of life, as well as reassure staff that their patients are getting the emotional, practical and compassionate support they need. We’re delighted to be partnering with Helpforce to deliver volunteering to supporting people at the end of life in communities and hospitals across the UK.”

Marie Curie volunteers find volunteering is life-changing:

“Being a Marie Curie Companion is a tremendous privilege. It allows me to become an honorary ‘family member’ for a short time, with the opportunity to try to provide comfort and companionship to end-of-life patients and their relatives.” Lynne Lindsay

“Being a Companion is such an honour; to simply be there in peace and to gently hold a space for another as they approach the end of their physical life, is one of the most beautiful, heart-warming and precious things I have ever done.” Simon Gardiner

“It is a great privilege to be a Marie Curie Companion. Those small things make such a difference like holding a hand at the end of someone’s life, just being there is really special.” Judy Glossop

“During my time as a companion I learnt many new skills. I felt a compassion on a level I thought I could never feel for people I didn’t know. On my journey with Marie Curie, the patients and their families, I felt sorrow, pain and contentment. Sorrow for the patients nearing the end of their lives, pain for their families, for the grief they felt at the loss of their loved ones, and contentment because I was with the families loved one when they died, giving the family peace of mind knowing their loved one was not alone.  Being a Marie Curie companion and sitting with the patients, helping people at the end of their lives helped me come to the realization that palliative care nursing is the path I am supposed to take.” Lorraine Roberts, former volunteer who was inspired to become a palliative care nurse

“The client I was with for 18 months, she had a massive family and lots of support but she was able to talk to me about things that she didn’t want to burden or worry her family with. I think that is such an honour. You are let into people’s homes and lives at such an important time. To anyone thinking about volunteering, I would say do not hesitate. The difference you can make with actually little effort, just by taking some time to listen to a person and just be there, it’s amazing. I also like the fact that often you are there for the carer too.

It is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. It is an honour.” Jacqui Browne, Helper volunteer

“I’ve lost two husbands and when I saw the role, I felt like I had a lot to give. I know I would have appreciated someone to talk to when I was caring for my husband Alan. It would have made a difference to me to have someone who knew something about how I was feeling at that time, because I was exhausted.  Helper volunteers are there for the person who is ill but you help family members too. You don’t need any special skills, just to be able to talk and listen. There’s a satisfaction in knowing that I’ve helped make a difference.”  Mags Oliphant, Helper volunteer

Media contacts

For more information or interview requests, please contact:

  • Beth Vaughan, Head of Comms Helpforce [email protected]  T: 07508  769 996

  • Tracy Barrett, Deputy Head of Media, PR and Campaigns, Marie Curie. T: 0207 599 7292. M: 07515 135 353. [email protected]uk

  • Contacts for the NHS

Maeve Hully – Director of Volunteering at Heplforce, [email protected]

Andrew Wilson-Mouasher – Divisional General Manager at Marie Curie, [email protected]

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