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Recently I met with Rhian Burke, founder and project manager of the charity 2 Wish Upon a Star. This organisation works to improve bereavement services in Wales for parents and families suffering the traumatic and sudden loss of a child.
As a result of this meeting, in my capacity as Chair of GPC Wales, I wrote to each Local Health Board calling on them to ensure that every Emergency Department has a bereavement suite available for families. This was a key gap in facilities that Rhian highlighted to me.
Additionally, I emphasised the importance of Local Health Boards putting in place protocols and policies to routinely inform the GPs of all immediate family members in the case of an unexpected death of a patient under the age of 26. This is particularly important when considering the increasing number of blended or re-constituted families and the potential for GPs to be unaware of individual patients who are experiencing bereavement.
Beyond working with Health Boards to improve information sharing and access to bereavement services, I also wrote to each Police Force in Wales requesting that they develop and implement similar protocol in relation to notifying GPs in a timely and proactive way.
It is essential that these protocol are put in place to ensure that we are able to give appropriate support to family members in their time of need.
Rhian established 2 Wish Upon a Star following the traumatic loss of her son and husband. She describes her experience, motivation and the work of the charity as follows:
“In February 2012 my son, George, passed away a week after his first birthday. Five days later the unimaginable happened: I lost my husband and best friend Paul. Traumatised and in total shock after losing his son, Paul took his own life.
"Understandably, coming to terms with this loss has been very tough emotionally both for myself and for our two young children. However, since February 2012 I have gained strength from the idea of raising money and with the help of the amazing people in our community established a very special charity named 2 Wish Upon A Star.
"The purpose of 2 Wish Upon a Star is to improve bereavement services in Wales, for parents and families suffering the traumatic and sudden loss of a child. We aim to ensure that bereaved parents and siblings have immediate access to bereavement support. This includes support in the initial moments following tragedy, having access to an Accident and Emergency Department bereavement suite for relatives, and as time moves on access to ongoing support through professional counselling services and complementary therapy.
"We provide specific resources to help families in their time of need. This includes memory boxes and blankets as well as the refurbishment of family rooms in A&E departments.
"2 Wish Upon a Star provides counselling to families who self-refer or are referred by outside agencies or professionals, including GPs. Our waiting list is minimal and we are proud of the support we offer family members who have experienced a traumatic loss.”
GPC Wales will continue to liaise with Local Health Boards and the Police Authorities to support the establishment of clear protocols to ensure that we are given the information we need to deliver appropriate care.
It is worth noting that you can refer families undergoing bereavement to the bereavement support services offered by 2 Wish Upon a Star. These include: bereavement counselling, sibling support, support groups and complementary therapies.
You can find out more about the services provided by 2 Wish Upon a Star on their website: http://www.2wishuponastar.org/
I will update you on any feedback from Local Health Boards and Police Authorities in due course.
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