Calm, compassionate people with excellent listening skills are being encouraged to join a team of specialist volunteers who offer vital support to end-of-life patients at Colchester Hospital.

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust is appealing for new faces to join its Butterfly Volunteers, who play a crucial role by providing comfort to patients and showing them they are not alone. The volunteers also support families and carers by giving them the opportunity to take a break from the bedside knowing that someone is with their loved one.

Valerie Dent (pictured below) has been a Butterfly Volunteer at the hospital for six years, and joined the team after previously volunteering with the chaplaincy service.

She said: “I passionately believe that no-one should die on their own, unless it is their decision so to do. The Butterfly Volunteers offer companionship, support and a listening ear to patients and their families, and show them that there are people who are on their side, ready to explain and advise them of the help that is available.

“I enjoy being part of a team of like-minded people who share the same aims and work together to give continuity of support whilst the patient is in the hospital. I can’t really describe that warm feeling you get knowing that you have helped at a difficult time.”

Gerry Lewis, (pictured right) who also volunteers in Colchester, joined the team just over two months’ ago and is thoroughly enjoying being given the opportunity to support patients and their families.

“I’ve always been interested in palliative care so this role was right for me,” she said. “I enjoy meeting different people and supporting both the patient and their family through a difficult time. It’s such a privilege to do this last thing for someone.

“Sometimes a smile and holding someone’s hand is enough. Hopefully the patients know they are not alone, and we can offer relatives a break so that they can get a drink or meal knowing their relative has someone with them. They can also share their feelings if needed, and we can signpost them to further information that may help.”

Debbie Farthing (pictured below), Butterfly Volunteer coordinator with ESNEFT, said: “Our Butterfly Volunteers play a crucial role at what can be a very difficult time by offering support and reassurance. Some will sing quietly to patients, others may read to them and some will simply sit and hold their hand, all of which shows our patients that they are not alone.

“Our amazing team also get a lot from volunteering, and feel privileged when families entrust their loved one with them so that they can take a break.

“We would encourage anyone who is calm and compassionate and can spare some time to get in touch and find out more about this very special role. You don’t need a clinical background or any hospital experience, but do need to be a really good listener.”

ESNEFT’s Butterfly Volunteers are funded by Colchester & Ipswich Hospitals Charity. Anyone interested in finding out more about the role at Colchester Hospital can call 07342 074790 or email [email protected]. Ipswich Hospital will be recruiting more volunteers later in the spring.

ESNEFT has recently launched a telephone support line which offers emotional support, advice and signposting for all non-clinical concerns to patients in the last year of their life, together with their families and carers.

To contact the Colchester helpline, call 07342 074790. Support for people based in the Ipswich area is available on 07342 074834.