The pilot project began on one ward in 2018 and has now been rolled out across the hospital. It involves simple and effective tools, such as discreet butterfly stickers next to beds and yellow dignity clips on curtains, to inform all hospital staff that a patient is in the last days of their life so that they act with compassion and sensitivity towards both the patient and their family. The scheme also trains hospital staff from cleaners, student nurses, ward staff and porters to understand what the butterfly stickers mean and how they can best support patients and families and avoid insensitive behaviour. To date the scheme has trained over 645 staff across Royal Cornwall Hospital.
Ed Murphy, Head of Services at Macmillan Cancer Support who are funders of the project said “There are few certainties in life, but there is one thing we can all be sure of, we will all die so end of life care should be everyone’s business. Butterfly Cornwall, it is a great example of how Royal Cornwall Hospital is leading the way by prioritising sensitive and appropriate care at the end of life and showing that all staff have a role to play in helping a patient to have a ‘good death’. We are so proud to be involved in such an important project.”
Macmillan’s recently published report – At the Crossroads: How can the NHS Long Term Plan improve end of life care in England? – looks at the lasting improvements that need be made in end of life care and how the recommendations in the NHS Long Term Plan can be put into action. One of the recommendations is the importance of training staff to have the confidence to support people at the end of life, something that is a core aim for the Butterfly scheme.
Stephanie Brelsford, Macmillan Palliative Care nurse whose role was funded by Macmillan and leads Butterfly Cornwall said: “We are aiming to improve and enhance end of life care through simple actions which have a big impact for our patients and their families. Our aim is for patients and their loved ones to spend quality time together when time is short. As a Macmillan professional I have the opportunity to support teams across the hospital to meet the special needs of our patient’s, through short training sessions, holistic support and facilitating experiences or ‘Rainbow Days’ to bring joy and create memories to cherish.”
As part of the project Macmillan have also given grants to fund wedding boxes and comfort bags. The comfort bags contain some essentials for visiting family members to be as comfortable as possible while staying with their loved one, such as shampoo, shower gel, toothbrush and toothpaste, a comb, hand wipes, pen and paper and information about the location of showers and support services within the hospital. The Wedding Boxes contain confetti, photo frame, wedding album and card, scented candle, bunting and champagne flutes – so that the Chaplaincy Team at the hospital can add special touches when conducting weddings at the end of life.
The Royal Cornwall Hospitals Charity also support the Butterfly Scheme including funding ‘Rainbow Days’ where they create extra special memories for patients and their families in the last days of their life. These have included arranging for patients to return home in the last hours of life, bringing a much-loved pet into the ward, a favourite tipple, a steak meal and a wedding on the ward. They also funded jute ‘Belongings bags’ for families to gather their loved ones belongings when they pass away.
To find out more about Butterfly Cornwall you can follow the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust Palliative Care and End of Life nursing team on Twitter (@rchtpallandeol).
Macmillan is here to help everyone with cancer in Cornwall to live life as fully as they can, providing physical, financial and emotional support. For information, support or just someone to talk to, call 0808 808 00 00 or visit macmillan.org.uk.
Macmillan’s new report At the Crossroads: How can the NHS Long Term Plan improve end of life care in England? can be found here.