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Chaplains lead Compassionate Communities
09/01/19

Since 2014, the chaplaincy team at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW), have been leading an initiative to support people with life limiting illnesses. ‘Compassionate Communities’ recruits volunteers to work with chaplains and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of life of people who are living with a terminal illness.

Lead Chaplain & Bereavement Service Manager, the Revd Simon Betteridge and his team of ten chaplains noticed that those living with life limiting conditions often experienced low confidence, anxiety and social isolation. In 2014 the team gained funding from the Health Foundation to set up social groups for sufferers of Chronic Obtrusive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). COPD sufferers meet once a week to chat, play games, eat together and learn how to manage their conditions.  A doctor or nurse is always present and this gives COPD patients a chance to talk to a healthcare professional in a non-clinical setting. After a year of the social groups, there was a significant noticeable improvement in the mental wellbeing, self-management and social inclusion of the participants as well as a recorded 20% reduction in unplanned admissions.

In 2016 Health Education England approached Simon and suggested that a similar model used for the COPD patients could benefit people undergoing palliative care. Volunteers were recruited and trained to go out into the communities and spend time with people in their own homes, or in a care home. The Compassionate Communities volunteers sit with, talk or read to people, and can offer support to their families as well – particularly when family members are full-time carers. The volunteers enable people to have better lives in the final months of life. As a result of the relationships the volunteers have built up with the friends and family, they are also able to support bereaved loved ones after the death of the individual.

The support of bereaved loved ones has recently becomes a key focus of Compassionate Communities. Two daytime bereavement groups have been set up to support people through their grief and an evening group will be starting shortly. The success of the Compassionate Communities service has led to it being rated as ‘outstanding’ for the caring element of End of Life care in a recent CQC inspection.

Simon Betteridge says:

“We have had a great response to Compassionate Communities since the service started. We have been able to support many people and their families throughout Coventry and Warwickshire. It is a privilege to lead an initiative that has enhanced the lives of people with life-limiting illnesses.”

If you’d like more information about Compassionate Communities please contact Simon on simon.betteridge@uhcw.nhs.uk or the Revd Sharon Crofts on Sharon.crofts@uhcw.nhs.uk

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