Bereavement Support


At this time of unprecedented pressure on NHS services due to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), this role aims to ease the workload of staff by undertaking a suppoting role of sharing practical information with deceased patients’ family and friends. This role will not replace bereavement counselling roles.

Volunteers will share practical information and updates in a compassionate, timely, and sensitive way with the bereaved and their families.

The role will not be clinical, but may involve liaising with the clinical and non-clinical teams where needed to ensure effective communication about patients who have died. This role assumes that family and friends are not permitted into the hospital and/ or onto the wards and communication with family and friends will be carried out over the phone.

What tasks can they do?
  • Sharing practical and timely information with families of the deceased in a sensitive and compassionate manner 
  • Making and recieving calls to/ from bereaved relatives and friends
  • Sensitively communicating information and receiving queries about the next steps once a patient has died
  • Providing reassurance that queries will be responded to and not forgetten
  • Signposting the bereaved to other bereavement services


    Boundaries (What volunteers won't do)

    Not providing advice/personal opinion but signposting to relevant services

    Not responsible for breaking news of death to relatives/friends

    No clinical care of patients

    No clinical advice

    No disclosure of patients’ personal information to anyone except relevant staff

    No using patients’ information for personal gains

    No lifting of heavy equipment 

    Pre-placement checks
    • Volunteers must have an enhanced criminal record check (DBS) for this role. If they do not have one already then the Trust should organise for one.
    • This role requires that they have certain immunisations and they will need to complete a health declaration form.
    Who are they?


    Age: Volunteers must be over 16 years old

    Health: Volunteers should be in a low risk health group. Vulnerable adults, those considered at an increased risk of severe illness or those caring for vulnerable adults are not suitable. (more information can be found here).

    COVID-19 exposure: Those who have symptoms of COVID-19, been exposed to those suffering from COVID-19 or recently returned from high risk countries (including Italy, Iran and China) are not suitable volunteers until after a 14 day isolation period.

    Skills and other requirements: 

    • Compassionate and sensitive nature.
    • Have confidence to communicate effectively with staff, patients and their relatives/friends
    • Professionalism – sensible and appropriate manner and exercise discretion at all times.
    • Ability to use own initiative, work independently and as part of a team.
    • To be aware of their own emotions and manage them with support from hospital team.

    To access training related to these roles please click here to join the National Learning Hub for Volunteers

    Core volunteer training covered in induction may include: 

    • Health and Safety
    • Infection control
    • Information Governance
    • Fire Safety
    • Manual and Handling
    • End of Life Care companionship training


    Supervision, safeguarding, and risks

    Supervised by: Bereavement Lead / Service Manager / Voluntary Services

    Please note: Supervision sessions are required for the volunteers, staff to be identified to provide this within existing hospital set up

    • Local induction by bereavement team
    • Briefing around appropriate language to use when speaking to relatives/friends

    Duty of care to volunteer: 

    • Clearly defined length of shift and breaks for volunteers and encourage them to take breaks.
    • Volunteers are permitted to step back from role if in distress. It is recommended that staff need to be pre-identified to support volunteers.