New scheme to help grieving families

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A PILOT scheme between police and the NHS will offer grieving relatives additional specialist support following the death of a loved one.

The scheme, launched on September 1st, will see police in the Preston area carrying a card that prompts them to ask family members if they would like help from a specialist nursing team following the sudden death of a relative.

If they want assistance, members of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s Bereavement and Donor Support Team will contact them to offer help and advice, including discussion on the possibility of organ and tissue donation.

The move is part of a drive by police, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals and Coroner Dr James Adeley to improve the quality of service offered to families who suffer a bereavement.

Police are called to attend a death if it is sudden and unexpected, and does not involve an obvious medical condition. The vast majority of such deaths are quickly found to be non-suspicious. Previously, opportunities to provide relatives with specialist support, or to honour any wishes in relation to organ or tissue donation, may have been missed. The new scheme will help to eliminate this.

This service will also be available to relatives when a death is suspicious, or requires further investigation. Senior investigating officers and family liaison officers involved in such investigations will approach families to see if they wish to use the service, although there may be some limitations in terms of organ or tissue donations, depending on the circumstances of the incident.

In all cases the final decision as to whether donation can take place will lie with the coroner, but a family’s wishes will be strongly considered.

Det. Supt Neil Esseen, of Lancashire Constabulary’s Force Major Investigation team, said: “Losing a loved one is always distressing, but it can be particularly so if you are unsure where to turn for support and feel that your relative’s wishes are not being met. Officers will now be signposting those who are grieving to the hospital’s bereavement team, who will be able to talk them through their options.

Helen Bradley, bereavement and donation co-ordinator at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This initiative will provide important support to help families understand the choices available and ensure their loved one’s wishes are respected.”

Dr James Adeley said: “In all cases, there is a presumption in favour of donation, if the family so wish, and it is only in rare circumstances that permission would not be given.”

If the pilot is successful, it is hoped that the police will be able to work with other NHS areas to extend the service across the whole of Lancashire, and offer this help and support to more families.