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Kent and Canterbury Hospital introduces 'compassion signs' for dying patients

By Gerry Warren

Hospital patients just hours or days from death will have 'compassion' symbols placed near their beds to alert staff and visitors.

The initiative - designed to encourage dignity and respect - has been devised by the east Kent hospitals trust and the Pilgrim’s Hospice to provide further comfort to those receiving end-of-life care and their families.

It is now operating in about 50 wards across the trust, including at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital.

The Pilgrims Hospice logo which is being used for compassion signs on hospital wards
The Pilgrims Hospice logo which is being used for compassion signs on hospital wards

The compassion signs are designed using the hospice’s logo, which features a pair of hands gently embracing a person’s face.

They can be displayed at the end of a bed, on a curtain, or on the door if a patient is receiving palliative care in a separate room.

But hospital spokesman Steve James says they are only put up with the approval of the patient and their families.

"It would never be done without consultation and is really about raising awareness among other visitors to the ward that someone is receiving end-of-life care and to encourage an atmosphere of quiet dignity and respect in that area," he said.

Hospice staff and nurses with the 'compassion' signs
Hospice staff and nurses with the 'compassion' signs

"Some palliative care patients do go into separate rooms while others choose to stay on the wards and the signs are put up where it is considered most appropriate."

The symbols are also used on bags that contain the clothing of patients who have died which are awaiting collection by their relatives.

Mr James added: "There are also posters and leaflets on wards and in departments to explain what they mean and we are spreading the message through our website and social media."

Consultant nurse for palliative care and the trust’s end-of-life clinical lead, Sue Cook, said: "Those of us who work in the NHS have a duty to ensure that our patients are cared for with dignity, respect and compassion until they die.

"That’s why the Compassion Project and its symbol is so important to us and all who help those approaching the end of their lives."

The compassion project has been funded through a legacy donation from the family of past Kent and Canterbury Hospital senior matron and Pilgrim’s trustee Pat Morley.
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