Scottish Daily Mail

NHS plan will turn staff into counsellor­s

- By Kate Foster Scottish Health Editor

Receptioni­sts and porters are being trained to offer comfort to relatives of dying patients in a radical scheme for hospital and care home staff.

Training sessions are being run for workers – and even visitors – to help them be more comfortabl­e talking about death.

The initiative aims to give those coming into contact with grieving relatives the skills to offer a listening ear.

Participan­ts are encouraged to approach relatives who look upset and ask if they are all right and then listen and offer comfort.

The move has been piloted in lanarkshir­e, where more than 800 members of staff have taken part.

The scheme is open to all staff working in the area’s hospitals and care homes, and even visitors.

although doctors and nurses frequently come into contact with relatives during a patient’s final days, the scheme is aimed at both clinical and nonclinica­l staff.

hospital porters, receptioni­sts and cleaners are likely to see family members in public areas such as corridors and cafes, where they can often be visibly upset if a patient is very unwell or dying.

George Beuken, head of pastoral care and education at st andrew’s hospice in airdrie, has led the initiative.

he said: ‘it used to be the case that friends and neighbours supported each other through the process of having a loved one die.

‘People spoke to each other over the garden fence. But over time, death has become sanitised – it happens in hospitals and behind closed doors and we are not good at talking about it.

‘The aim is to have staff, or even visitors, more comfortabl­e with the issue of death. it could be a member of the domestic staff, a porter, a receptioni­st – maybe they see someone struggling to get a cup of tea out of the vending machine.

‘The ideas is if it’s appropriat­e, they can offer to help, and then ask if they are oK.

‘They can have a short conversati­on with them where they offer comfort, be natural and normal, showing a willingnes­s to listen. a simple act of human kindness.

‘This is a public health issue and we need to be more comfortabl­e talking about death and dying.’

a scottish Government spokesman said that the scheme fits with its own action on end of life care.

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