A project that supports volunteers in offering a comforting presence for terminally ill patients has been recognised at a national awards ceremony.

The Butterfly Volunteers are based at Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust (PAHT) in Harlow where helpers receive specialist training for the role.

Shahid Sardar, associate director of patient engagement nominated the project at the national Nursing Times Awards which reached the finals on Wednesday, October 30.

Mr Sardar, said: “For those patients who die in hospital, our clinical team are dedicated to ensuring that their experience is as comfortable as possible.

“As a result of this focus, we identified a need for personal support in palliative care and embarked on a search for volunteers who would like to help our patients.

“We were delighted with the response - 48 people nominated themselves to become ‘Butterfly Volunteers’, specialising in helping end of life patients.”

Training for Butterfly Volunteers is delivered in conjunction with The Anne Robson Trust including how to give patients and families space and talk about how they are coping.

Since the programme launched in 2017, 1,535 visits have been made to patients, including 819 hours’ worth of bedside visits.

Mr Shahid added: “Reaching the finals of the Nursing Times Awards was an amazing experience for everyone involved in the programme.

“It was humbling to see the programme acknowledged by our colleagues across the NHS. We are now working to continue rolling out the programme and growing our numbers of volunteers.

“Our Butterfly Volunteers are inspirational and their gentle presence, comfort, support and kindness are so beneficial for our patients and their families at such a difficult time.”