A pioneering nurse who has dedicated her career to improving the way staff across the NHS support dying patients and their families visited Furness General Hospital (FGH) last week to hear about the improvements the bereavement team at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) have made.
Fiona Murphy, who was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List last month, is the driving force behind the Royal Alliance Bereavement and Donor Service at three large NHS Foundation Trusts; Salford Royal, Bolton, and Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh met the bereavement team who work across Morecambe Bay hospitals.
The Bereavement team at UHMBT provide practical and emotional support to patients and their families during the final hours of life, and immediately after death.
They are also responsible for raising awareness among nurses on the wards to ‘pull out all the stops’ to help make dying patient’s wishes come true – whether that is to help them return home to die or get married.
After the death of a loved one, the bereavement team also guides families through the next practical steps that need attending to such as the provision of a death certificate and information about making funeral arrangements etc.
During the visit, Fiona met Joann Morse, Deputy Chief Nurse, Joy Wharton, lead Macmillan palliative care nurse, Carole Palmer and Lindsay Pinch, bereavement liaison specialist nurses, Becky Bleackley, bereavement midwife, and Ed Northey, FGH’s chaplain.
They discussed the improvements made in the last three years for bereaved relatives whose loved ones have died in one of UHMBT’s hospitals. She also met with Joe Ogle, mortuary manager, and saw first-hand the improvements the team have made to relatives bereavement experience when they visit the hospital mortuary, as well as discussing and recommending further improvements which can be made.
This work has already dramatically improved end of life care across UHMBT and successfully promotes choice and dignity for end of life patients and their families.
Bereavement liaison specialist nurse, Carole Palmer said: “We were delighted to welcome Fiona to FGH. She is widely credited with transforming organ donation and bereavement practice across the NHS and along with her team, is known throughout the NHS for pulling out all the stops to help make a dying patient’s wishes come true in their final hours.
“Fiona also met nursing staff at FGH on ward 9 and was excited to learn about our plans for a special room for patients nearing the end of their life with facilities for their family to stay with them. Fiona said she thinks UHMBT are the only NHS Trust in the country to offer this facility.
“She also gave us some great tips for further improvements. She was very impressed that we have adopted the Dragonfly symbol to represent ‘dignity in death’.
The dragonfly symbol is used in the patient’s bed space as death approaches, it alerts all staff that extra privacy, compassion and sensitivity is needed.’
Fiona said: “My visit to UHMBT was brilliant and I saw many examples of fantastic practice happening across UHMBT. The whole team and wider staff across the Trust should be very proud of what they have achieved.
“I absolutely loved their plans for a special room for patients who are nearing the end of their life and the new facilities which will allow their family members to stay with them. This is brilliant stuff and I am not aware of this happening in any other NHS Trust”.
Sue Smith, Executive Chief Nurse, UHMBT, said: “I was delighted to hear that Fiona was able to visit FGH. The feedback the bereavement team and the wider teams working across our hospitals received from Fiona is testament to the passion; commitment and leadership UHMBT staff show bereaved families at a time of significant distress at the loss of a loved one.”