The Paediatric Emergency Unit at the University Hospital of Wales provides care for over 33 000 children per year. There was no provision in place to support suddenly bereaved families. Staff felt that we could improve the services provided to families who’s children sadly died in the unit.
The aim was to provide immediate support for the suddenly bereaved families by working in partnership with local Charity 2 Wish Upon a Star. Together we created a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that consisted of a checklist and pathway allowing us to refer relatives for immediate physical and emotional support. The pilot ran for 12 months offering support and counselling tailored to each individual family.
The bereaving process begins in the emergency department. When a child had died families were given the to Wish Upon a Star memory boxes which contained physical support including two cuddly elephants, one to follow the patient and one for the parent/carer to keep and hand and foot print kits. As well as written booklets giving practical information on the next steps such as post mortems and funerals- these often very difficult questions to ask and answer. And about the charity itself. Once consent was gained by the staff, the families details were shared with the immediate support worker at the charity who would contact them within 24 hours.
The initial 12 months trial had 18 paediatric deaths, 17 of which took up the support offered to them. The informal feedback we gained was positive from both staff and families. Our relationship with the charity has enabled us to feedback to the individual nurse involved, thus improving staff well being.
Due to the success of this pathway it has been extended to include young adults up to the age of 25 years. The model has also been rolled out across critical care in UHW and is now being used in all emergency department in Wales.
This innovative partnership offers immediate support to bereaved families across Wales which has improved care and services provided by the University Health Board.