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Dying Matters Week at OUH: Are you ready?

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Palliative care staff based at Sobell House Hospice, part of Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Foundation Trust, want to get people talking about end of life in a positive and engaging way as part of Dying Matters Awareness Week (13-19 May 2019).

Led by Dying Matters, a coalition of organisations across England and Wales from the NHS and hospices to funeral directors and schools, the awareness week aims to encourage people to plan for the inevitable.

This year's event is focused on the theme 'Are we ready?', encouraging  more people to be active in planning for dying and death, and helping support those who may need it in times of grief and bereavement.

Taking part in the awareness week is the team at Sobell House, based on the Churchill Hospital site, who want to create a friendly space for people to ask questions about end of life care issues, such as making a Will, planning a funeral or coping with bereavement.

Conversations over organ donation, future care wishes and digital legacies are also important.

Samantha Edwards, Lead Palliative Care Nurse at the Trust, said: "Death is a taboo subject for many people, but by encouraging people to talk and think about it more means people will be aware of the support and information which is available at their time of need.

"With people living longer, and often spending more time in ill-health, we want to encourage people to talk about their wishes towards the end of their life.

"Few of us enjoy thinking about death, and it can be hard to talk about it. But there are things we can do to make it easier.

"By starting the conversation early, your loved ones and you will know what is important to you and what your wishes are."

A free public event at Oxford's Christ Church College on Wednesday 15 May 2019 will encourage people to start a conversation about death and dying through creative media.

Titled 'Finding a Language', Radiohead drummer Philip Selway will open the event, which will also feature music, poetry and art therapies - things that help patients to express feelings, and reflect on important moments in life. 

Finding a Language - book via

Meanwhile, staff will have opportunities to take part in teaching activities at the John Radcliffe Hospital, 8.00am - 9.00am each day, Monday 13 May through to Thursday 16 May. Topics including managing pain and complexity, supporting nutrition and hydration at the end of life, spiritual care and skills for advance care planning will be discussed.

There will also be a symposium open to anyone interested in improving End of Life Care in Lecture Theatre 2, John Radcliffe Hospital on Friday 17 May, which will include presentations from a range of palliative care practitioners from across the Trust and Sobell House.

Around 2,500 people are cared for as they die in all wards across OUH every year, and each of those deaths will affect many more people in different ways.

It is always an emotional time when someone we care about dies, but it is made easier if we know that all the plans were in place: they had the care they wanted, the funeral is arranged, and there's no dispute about the Will. It makes tough times easier to deal with.

Mary Miller, Consultant in Palliative Medicine at Sobell House and Trust Lead for the End of Life Care Project, said: "Patients deserve and receive good care at the end of their lives in OUH. Over the past three years the outreach team from Sobell have grown the number of patients that we are involved with to 50 percent.

"We have worked alongside our colleagues to support over 40 projects to improve the care that dying patients receive - our staff and their departments are passionately committed to further improving care.

"Conversation about the inevitability of death for all of us helps us build skills and confidence to go on and hear what our patients think and explore their views about the care they would prefer."

Pictured: Sobell House team, from left: Rachel Lee, Amelia Sayce (both specialist nurses), Sam Edwards (Lead Specialist Palliative Care Nurse), Mary Miller (Consultant in Palliative Medicine), Gwen Klepping (Pharmacist), Lorna Tanner (Hospital Team Administrator), Aoife Lowney (Consultant in Palliative Medicine), and Julia Newport (specialist nurse)