End-of-life volunteers at local hospitals have received praise for their work ahead and have spoken about what drives them to do what they do.

At East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), the 'Butterfly Volunteers' are tasked with providing comfort to patients and families with "vital" end-of-life support.

Families can also be given the opportunity to take a break from the bedside knowing that someone is with their loved one.

Ahead of a recruitment drive, the work done by these carers is being praised and acknowledged.

Debbie Farthing, butterfly volunteer coordinator with ESNEFT, said: “Our butterfly volunteers play a crucial role at what can be a very difficult time by offering support and reassurance.

"Some will sing quietly to patients, others may read to them and some will simply sit and hold their hand, all of which shows our patients that they are not alone.

“Our amazing team also get a lot from volunteering, and feel privileged when families entrust their loved one with them so that they can take a break."

Volunteers have also shared their experiences and the pride they have in providing end-of-life care.

Valerie Dent has been a butterfly volunteer at Colchester Hospital for six years and joined the team after previously volunteering with the chaplaincy service.

East Anglian Daily Times: Valerie DentValerie Dent (Image: ESNEFT)

She said: “I passionately believe that no-one should die on their own, unless it is their decision so to do.

"The butterfly volunteers offer companionship, support and a listening ear to patients and their families, and show them that there are people who are on their side, ready to explain and advise them of the help that is available.

“I enjoy being part of a team of like-minded people who share the same aims and work together to give continuity of support whilst the patient is in the hospital.

"I can’t really describe that warm feeling you get knowing that you have helped at a difficult time.”

Gerry Lewis, who also volunteers in Colchester, joined the team just over two months’ ago and is thoroughly enjoying being given the opportunity to support patients and their families.

East Anglian Daily Times: Gerry LewisGerry Lewis (Image: ESNEFT)

She said: "It’s such a privilege to do this last thing for someone.

“Sometimes a smile and holding someone’s hand is enough.

"Hopefully the patients know they are not alone, and we can offer relatives a break so that they can get a drink or meal knowing their relative has someone with them.

"They can also share their feelings if needed, and we can signpost them to further information that may help.”

In 2023, ESNEFT is hoping to recruit more volunteers at Colchester Hospital.

Ipswich Hospital will also be recruiting more volunteers later in the spring.

Debbie Farthing added: “We would encourage anyone who is calm and compassionate and can spare some time to get in touch and find out more about this very special role.

"You don’t need a clinical background or any hospital experience, but do need to be a really good listener.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about becoming a butterfly volunteer can call 07342 074790 or email butterfly.volunteers@esneft.nhs.uk.