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Hospital's partner charity which supports volunteers who offer a comforting presence for patients at the end of their lives receives funding boost

Following their recent recognition at prestigious awards ceremonies, a partner charity of The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust has now received £95,000 of National Lottery funding.

Image representing Hospital's partner charity which supports volunteers who offer a comforting presence for patients at the end of their lives receives funding boost

The Anne Robson Trust received the grant from The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK. The charity provides one-to-one compassionate listening, comfort and companionship to people nearing the end of their lives in hospital. This includes the Butterfly Volunteers at The Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow.

The Butterfly Volunteers' challenging work requires a delicate, sensitive approach, for which PAHT has recently become the Anne Robson Trust Centre of Excellence to provide specialist training. It is for this partnership with the charity, that The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust (PAHT) was shortlisted for the Enhancing Patient Dignity Award 2019 by the Nursing Times.

PAHT currently have 30 volunteers in place who are able to offer a comforting presence for patients at the end of their lives and can be someone to talk to when patients, families or carers may be lonely or frightened. Since the programme began, over 1,800 visits have been made to patients, hundreds of hours have been spent by the bedside and positive messages from families and carers have been received.

The Anne Robson Trust currently also works in partnership with The Norfolk & Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, East Suffolk & North Essex NHS Foundation Trust and the James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in Great Yarmouth. It is the only charity of its kind in the UK.

The funding will be used to grow the charity's volunteer base and expand the service to more NHS trusts in the region, with the aim of increasing the hours of bedside support that they offer. The charity will also use the funding to recruit an East of England area manager to coordinate and oversee the work of the volunteers.

Evelyn Peacock, 62, works as a volunteer at The Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow. She has been a Butterfly Volunteer since 2016. She said:

"I first heard about the Butterfly Volunteers when I was working as a nurse helper in a hospice. Liz Pryor, (founder of Anne Robson Trust) contacted different hospices in the area to recruit Butterfly Volunteers to provide companionship to patients in acute hospitals who were at the end of their lives. Straight away this was something that sounded very worthwhile and something I wanted to get involved in.

"I will always remember one lady that I spent time with. Even though she couldn't speak, I could tell she was frightened about being in hospital. I spent two hours with her, gently giving her water and explaining that I would stay with her. I will always remember the look of gratitude on her face when I left. She died two days later - I'm glad I was able to treat her with dignity and make her feel safe when I was with her.

"We now have volunteers applying from all walks of life, not just nurses or people who have volunteered previously. I feel very privileged to be a Butterfly Volunteer and to sit with those who would otherwise be alone."

Liz Pryor, founder of Anne Robson Trust, said: "We are extremely excited to receive transformational funding from The National Lottery Community Fund. We are a small, but rapidly growing charity, and are keen to expand our work across the East of England and beyond. This funding allows us to engage an East of England area manager to oversee work and provide much needed support and guidance to the Butterfly Volunteer coordinators we work with.

"Providing support to patients in the last days of life is so important - and we will make it our mission to give company, care and compassion to as many people as we can in the years to come. No one should die alone."

Jon Eastwood, senior head of regional funding at The National Lottery Community Fund, said:"We're delighted to fund the Anne Robson Trust, which recognises the positive impact of volunteering within hospitals. Thanks to National Lottery players, the organisation will be able to expand its current provision into more hospitals and build up a bigger volunteering base. This will help to reduce isolation and loneliness for those who need it most."

Notes to editors:

The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust was established in April 1995 and provides services at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, the Herts and Essex Hospital in Bishop's Stortford, and St Margaret's Hospital in Epping. We have an annual income of around £236,700 million. We have 414 general and acute beds at the Princess Alexandra Hospital and provide a full range of general acute services, including a 24/7 emergency department, an intensive care unit, a maternity unit and a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). We also provide outpatient and diagnostic services from the Herts and Essex Hospital, Bishop's Stortford, and St Margaret's Hospital in Epping.

We employ around 3,500 staff and serve a local population of about 350,000 people living in West Essex and East Hertfordshire, centred on the M11 corridor and the towns of Harlow, Bishop's Stortford and Epping. Our extended catchment area incorporates a population of up to 500,000 and includes the areas of Hoddesdon, Cheshunt and Broxbourne in Hertfordshire.

In October 2019, the Government announced that we are to receive funding to rebuild a new hospital in Harlow for our patients, community and people. The details around the funding and the timeframe are currently being finalised and we are completing our full business case for the new hospital.

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