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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

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Sunflower initiative provides sensitive end of life care

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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has launched a new initiative to help develop and sustain high standards of care for patients reaching the end of their lives. 

From January 2019, staff are encouraged to display a sunflower image to signal to all staff that there is a patient on the ward who is dying. Patients and/or the family will be asked for permission.

The initiative is necessary because hospital wards are very busy places with a large number of staff who provide care. Sometimes, staff enter a room unaware that the patient is dying.   

We hope that displaying a sunflower symbol will alert staff to be sensitive to the needs of the patients and their families at this important time.

Sharon Yates, Clinical Programme Manager at the Trust, said: "Clinical areas are very busy places, and staff strive to provide excellent care to patients and their families at this sensitive time. 

"Some of our bereaved families have identified that some staff in the clinical area did not know their relative was dying and this was distressing. 

"We hope that, with permission, by displaying the sunflower, all staff will be aware and can liaise with the nurses on the ward if needed."

Having a sunflower on a patient's door is a 'be aware' message, not a 'do not enter' one. 

Staff can place a sunflower image on the door once it has been identified that the patient is likely to be dying. The patient's condition is reviewed by staff and the sunflower can be removed if necessary.  

It is important that staff understand the purpose of the sunflower and how to use it, and that patients and families are aware of the intent to display a sunflower. 

The sunflower image will be used in end of life care initiatives, papers and reports, to support our commitment to providing excellent care to our patients and their families across the Trust

The sunflower initiative was developed in collaboration with staff throughout the organisation, and the Trust's End of Life Care Group is made up of staff of all professions from many clinical areas within the Trust.