A new group of volunteers have started at North Devon District Hospital (NDDH) who will be on hand to support dying patients and their loved ones.

The new volunteer end of life companions are existing volunteers who have been specially trained to offer emotional support and comfort for patients who are dying, and for their families and carers.

The project started this week as part of Dying Matters Week (May 13-19).

John Fletcher-Cullum, end of life and advanced care planning lead at Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust (NDHT), has led the project.

He said: "Providing our patients with a good experience at the end of their lives is really important to us at NDHT.

"This means listening to people's wishes and fulfilling them where we can, and making sure that their loved ones feel supported as they go through what's happening."

"Our volunteers provide support based entirely on the needs of the patient and their families and carers.

"It could be listening, giving information on facilities, making a cup of tea or simply being with the patient so their loved one can have a break or take care of other commitments."

The volunteer end of life companions wear bright green tabards with a butterfly symbol so that staff, patients and visitors can easily recognise the volunteers.

Clare Kemp has joined the team of volunteer end of life care companions and is particularly passionate about supporting those people who don't have family or friends around them during this moment in their lives.

She said: "When I first started volunteering for the trust I expressed an interest in end of life care, so when I heard about this project I immediately signed up to help.

"I have always firmly believed that nobody should die alone or face that journey alone, and I can help make a difference in this way."

NDHT is looking for volunteers to join their team in a variety of other roles, including dementia companions, mealtime companions and patient experience feedback volunteers.

Anyone interested in giving their time to help patients in North Devon can email ndht.volunteer@nhs.net or call 01271 313933 or visit www.northdevonhealth.nhs.uk/work/volunteering.