Western Trust introduces patient-friendly 'End of Life' symbol

Wed, 24/01/2018 - 14:18 -- Editor

The Western Trust Health and Social Care Trust (Western Trust) is delighted to be the First HSC Trust in Northern Ireland to roll out the Hospice Friendly Hospitals End of Life Symbol.

The Western Trust is committed to improving communication and supporting patients and families particularly when they are most vulnerable, such as when life is coming to an end. To promote these two goals the Trust has been the first in Northern Ireland to initiate the use of the Hospice Friendly Hospitals end of life symbol across its hospitals at Altnagelvin Hospital, Londonderry; South West Acute Hospital, Enniskillen and Omagh Hospital and Primary Care Complex.  The use of the symbol aims to promote dignity and respect for patients and their families who are nearing death or who have just died in the context of our very busy health service.    The Neolithic symbol, which represents birth, life and death is displayed on a patient’s  door, following discussion and agreement by the patient and or their family and signals to staff and visitors the need to proceed respectfully and thoughtfully.

Professor Max Watson, Consultant in Palliative Medicine for the Western Trust said: “When someone is nearing death or has just died it is so important that staff and visitors are aware and mindful of this so that this very important time is protected from unnecessary intrusion. The All-Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care ‘Let’s Talk Survey’ highlighted that giving people respect, space and time around the time of death, and the period leading up and after it,  is imperative for a good death and impacts on the bereavement of those left behind. Awareness through the symbol gives staff a way to continue care through maintaining the dignified and supported space for the once in a lifetime process that is dying.”

Professor Watson continued: “We hope the use of this symbol will be a real support to families and staff involved in the care of patients approaching the end of life;  that it will prevent inappropriate intrusions and will help us all to create that dignified space that we would want for our own loved ones or for ourselves.”  

The symbol has now been implemented across the hospitals in the Western Trust area and a short video has been developed to raise awareness of its use.  The video can be viewed on the Western Trust Youtube channel.