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Hospital Partners

How We Partner with Hospitals

The Anne Robson Trust partners with acute hospitals to help them set up and run teams of ‘end of life’ volunteers.

We have extensive experience of working with hospitals with differing requirements and at different stages of set-up.

We are perfectly placed to help you get your service up and running, quickly and efficiently.

Elderly woman in bed being comforted by a man holding her handy

Find out more about  how we work with hospitals

Answers to common questions from hospitals

Find out more about Family Hubs in hospitals 

How We Partner With Hospitals

Why end of life volunteer projects are so important

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted not only the challenges of delivering personal care with empathy, but also its high value to recipients.

Trained volunteers can play a crucial role in making this personalised care possible.

Three Butterfly Volunteers Who Provide End Of Life Care in UK Hospitals

End of life volunteers can:

  • Offer dying patients the benefit of the company and comfort of another human being as they die.
  • Offer support to patients’ families, especially those who are not able to visit or who need some respite from the bedside.
  • Help a hospital provide a more positive experience of end of life care and hospital services, promoting better emotional wellbeing during the loss of a loved one, with the bereaved person then better able to manage and support their own grief.
  • Improve the working environment for ward staff, helping them feel less stressed and freeing up their time to focus on clinical tasks.

What’s more, the simple act of volunteering also benefits the volunteers themselves, contributing positively to their own health and sense of wellbeing.

The value of volunteer support to hospitals is discussed in this article in the Nursing Times.

We like to call end of life volunteers ‘Butterfly Volunteers’, because butterflies are thought to represent endurance, change and hope and are recognised as a symbol of palliative care.

Nursing Times Logo

No one should die alone: volunteer
support for patients dying in hospital

Shahid Sardar, Associate Director of Patient Experience.

Butterfly Volunteers could bring a range of benefits to patients dying in your hospital, simply by having time to:

  • engage with patients who have no visitors
  • read to patients, find their favourite music to listen to or just sit quietly
  • support family or friends who are struggling
  • take over when family or friends need a break
  • simply sit and listen
  • liaise with nursing staff on behalf of the patient
  • ensure that nursing staff know that their patients are not alone

Managing bereavement and end-of-life care remains a huge challenge for the NHS. Without the help of the voluntary sector it would be impossible.

The Anne Robson Trust is in the vanguard of this work, with their unique approach, training and understanding. I’m full of admiration for what they achieve and so grateful that they do.

Roy Lilley  Fab NHS Stuff

How the Anne Robson Trust can help you

We know that no two hospitals are the same. We will work with you from beginning to end, helping you design and deliver the best end of life volunteer project for your hospital.

This could include:

  • Assistance with sourcing funding for your end of life volunteer coordinator post and project set up
  • support with the recruitment of your end of life volunteer coordinator* – including templates for a job description and interview questions
  • Offsite, onsite and virtual training for your coordinator – including sessions with current end of life volunteers and coordinators from partner hospitals to provide vital insight into the role, as well as templates for administrative systems as required
  • Assisting your coordinator to recruit their first cohort of end of life volunteers, including help with interviews, risk assessments, welcome pack information and planning for the first training day
  • Assistance running volunteer training days either virtually or onsite (Covid dependent), including volunteer wellbeing sessions
  • Ongoing support from our team, including specific volunteer coordinator wellbeing 1:1 sessions, plus the opportunity to join regular virtual meetings of end of life coordinators to share best practice and brainstorm in a peer group of like-minded individuals

*We believe best practice is for a dedicated volunteers coordinator to be recruited to set up and manage the team of end of life volunteers and build / develop the service.

However, we are flexible and understand that this may not suit every trust.

We are currently offering this service to acute NHS trusts completely free of charge.

How you can help us

Butterfly Volunteer's lanyard and IDOur work is entirely funded by donations from individuals and grant making trusts and foundations. In order to be able to offer this service to NHS trusts free of charge, we need to collect data that proves the impact of our work. We ask that we are provided with anonymised data, on a quarterly basis for an agreed period of time, in order to be able to raise funds to continue to provide support to NHS trusts. This data includes number of end of life volunteers, visits, patients / families supported, hours by the bedside, plus some narrative data on the impact of the service from volunteers, families of patients supported, staff and local community. For  more information, please  get in touch here.









Hospital Partners Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re thinking of partnering with the Anne Robson Trust to develop an end of life volunteering service for your trust, here are some answers to questions you may have.

A well thought-out project with hospital approval can be easily implemented and up and running within a matter of months.

Support is designed to suit individual hospitals, with a bespoke project plan for each trust depending on identified needs.

This could include:

  • Assistance with sourcing funding as required
  • Recruitment of a volunteer coordinator, including provision of job description, joint shortlisting and assistance with interviews
  • Full training (either onsite or virtual) for your team coordinator – administration, volunteer management and bedside visiting
  • Assistance with onboarding the volunteer team, including risk assessments, training and volunteer wellbeing
  • Ongoing support to prioritise the coordinator’s wellbeing
A full time dedicated end of life coordinator ensures sufficient time to:
  • Prioritise patient visits
  • Liaise with ward staff, Palliative Care Team and Chaplaincy
  • Onboard the volunteer team
  • Run rotas
  • Provide wellbeing support to volunteers before and after each shift
  • Run 1-1 development sessions and team meetings
  • Input and maintain accurate data collection
  • Run volunteer training and a development programme
  • Attend meetings within the organisation to promote the project
  • Organise and deliver team social events and enhance the sense of wellbeing that volunteering brings to the those who volunteer
Costs may include:
  • Dedicated end of life coordinator salary to enable the service to operate across the whole trust on a 7-day rolling basis
  • Volunteer workwear including lanyards (if used in the hospital)
  • Promotional materials as required

At the Anne Robson Trust, we like to use the name Butterfly Volunteers because butterflies are thought to represent endurance, change and hope and are recognised as a symbol of palliative care.

Some of the hospitals we work with choose to call their end of life volunteers Butterflies; others prefer to use a different title.


“Our ward staff look after lots of patients who are nearing the end of life. They would like to spend more time with each patient but sadly this isn’t always possible, so having the Butterfly Volunteers here has been a great support to the staff as well as the patients and relatives.”

Ward Manager, Princess Alexandra Hospital

“The Butterfly Volunteers are such a valuable team of individuals who support patients at the end of their lives and their relatives / carers. Their support on the wards really makes a difference to the staff too – knowing that patients are not left on their own to die.”

Macmillan Clinical Lead for Specialist Palliative Care, Princess Alexandra Hospital

“It was so wonderful to chat with the Butterfly Volunteer when she arrived on the ward.

We had been sitting by Dad’s bed for hours and really needed to take a break, but couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him alone. She was so kind, we were able to go and get a coffee and some headspace knowing Dad had company.

A fantastic, much needed service. Thank you.”

Patient’s relative, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital

Family Hubs

Why we are supporting our hospital partners to set up Family Hubs?

As spring 2020 turned to summer, we realised that the original vision for our service in hospitals would need to be adapted to work with the ‘new normal’.

Covid-19 was not going away anytime soon. If we were only going to be able to offer limited support to patients by their bedside, how could we support their families?

This is where the idea for Family Hubs came from.

Two men in grief comforting each other
We know that visiting a hospital can be a stressful experience at the best of times, but visiting a dying relative during the pandemic is particularly difficult for people. We want to provide a space where people can prepare themselves before the visit, and decompress afterwards before travelling home. The hub will be a safe place for families to access support whilst visiting a loved one who is at the end of life.  Staffed by fully trained Butterfly Volunteers, who can advise on the correct use of PPE, accompany the visitor to the ward using the most direct route, and be there to take them back to the hub following the visit. We hope that here will also be:
  • lockers for visitors to leave their personal belongings securely
  • a changing room to use if they need to change into scrubs
  • tea, coffee and cake available
We like to think of this service as a socially distanced, metaphorical arm around the families’ shoulders, at the most difficult of times.

We are working closely with our partner hospitals to identify and secure funding to cover the setup costs of these Family Hubs. 

We are proud that we were able to support a successful bid to NHS Charities Together for the hub at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow.

We have developed further training for the Butterfly Volunteer teams already working at our partner hospitals, so that they will be well equipped to support families in this new Family Hub environment.

Whilst the pandemic restrictions remain in place, setting up new schemes is challenging, but we are committed to working with our partner hospitals in any way we can.

Current hospital partners

NHS Logos pf Hospitals in Eastern England

Interested in joining the volunteer team at one of our partner hospitals?

Find out more

Butterfly Volunteers give my role as Chief Nurse greater meaning, purpose and resolve. End of life patients and their families need time, which Butterfly Volunteers have. The Anne Robson Trust provides a core service to compliment an already over-stretched NHS

Prof. Nancy Fontaine, Chief Nurse, Norfolk & Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust