“Dying matters and we only get one chance to get it right.”

These are the words of Montgomery woman Jules Lewis, End of Life Care Facilitator at The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH), who along with a band of ‘fabulous’ volunteers has transformed the way Shropshire’s two acute hospitals care for people who are dying.

In recent years the trust which runs the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH) and Telford’s Princess Royal Hospital (PRH), has drastically improved facilities for people during their final days, as well as the care and support it offers for loved ones during this difficult time.

This week the trust opened two new Swan Rooms – quiet non-clinical looking rooms that provide privacy and dignity for patients at the end of their life – in the Acute Medical Unit at PRH and A&E at PRH.

It takes the total number of Swan Rooms up to nine, with each one decorated using relaxing colours and featuring tranquil artwork on the walls, soft furnishings and mood lighting.

The AMU Swan Room was opened by Ward Manager Tracy Smith and photographer Jason Hornby, who supplied two colours prints of swans for the room.

The PRH Swan Room was opened by Emergency Department Ward Manager Lara Wynn and Logistics Manager Ian Morris Jones – watched by SaTH Chief Executive Simon Wright and Chief Operating Officer Debbie Kadum.

Jules, a former Newtown High School pupil, said: “Helping patients and their families at their time of greatest need is hugely important to us. The staff on both AMU and A&E have been fantastic in helping to make this happen and we have had great support from our Estates colleagues, too.

“The Swan Room in A&E was the biggest challenge, and it has taken us many months to complete – but perseverance and teamwork have really paid off and the room has been transformed. It now reflects the values of the Trust, and will make such a difference.”

The A&E Swan Room was opened during Fab Change Week – a national day of action when NHS staff commit to make a positive change in the workplace and, most importantly, to turn ideas into action.

On Wednesday (15 November), Roy Lilley, NHS commentator and founder of ‘The Academy of Fabulous NHS Stuff’, visited SaTH for a tour of the Bereavement Suite, which includes Swan Rooms and a Cygnet Suite for children.

Roy, who was shown before and after photographs of the Bereavement Suite during his visit, said: “The changes are fantastic and the Swan Rooms are very clever, caring and compassionate.”

Jules added: “It’s the place people only visit at their lowest moments. It’s a solemn time filled with sadness and this is why it was so important we upgraded the previously out-dated mortuary.

“It was fabulous to show Roy and Dr Terri Porrett, also of The Academy of Fabulous Stuff, around the Bereavement Suites and to tell them all about our 10 Swan Rooms, plus all of our plans for the future.

“We are all very proud of what we have achieved so far but will not rest on our laurels. Dying matters and we only get one chance to get it right.”

Other Fab initiatives launched during Fab Change Week to improve end of life care include:

End of Life Care Volunteer scheme – volunteers will work closely with the End of Life Care Team to support patients and their families by offering companionship to patients who have few or no family.

Swan vouchers – these entitle people staying with their loved ones at the end of their life to a free hot drink and a slice of cake to encourage people to take a short break and look after themselves.

Swan Bags – building on the idea of a Swan Box, which is given to families of patients that have an end of life plan in place, Swan Bags have been introduced for unexpected deaths and contain items such as a bereavement booklet, a pen, paper, jewellery bag and tissues.

Sympathy cards – the bereavement team have introduced a new sympathy card, as well as a coping with grief leaflet.

Mouth care – the trust has launched a new mouth care policy and have made a training film called Mouth Care Matters at SaTH.

During Fab Change Week staff are asked to make pledges that will make a positive difference to patient care, and as part of this a group of nine people completed their training to become End of Life Volunteers.

The new volunteer role works closely with the End of Life Care Team to support patients and their families by offering companionship to patients who have few or no family members available to visit. The first ‘flock’ were awarded with a ‘Fab Hero’ badge from Roy Lilley.

Richard Jones, of Garthmyl, near Berriew, one of the volunteers, said: “Patients who are dying often experience loneliness, anxiety about impending death and depression, yet may have no or few family or friends to comfort them.

“Hospital remains the most common place of death and no one should die there alone.

“I am fortunate to have a wonderful network of family and friends but I know not everyone is in the same position as myself and I wanted to be able to give a small piece of my time to offer friendship to someone that has contributed so much to the world we live in. Having completing the course and training I feel confident in approaching patients and families and offering support.”

Roy added: “The End of Life Care Volunteer Scheme is a fabulous idea and one I know works incredibly well. It is great that the first cohort of people have gone through their training and to hear that more are queuing up to get involved.

“It was great to visit SaTH and to witness the enthusiasm their people have for improving patient care.”