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New nurse role launched to support grieving families

04 October 2018

Senior Coroner Joanne kearsley, bereavement nurse Milly Cooke, area coroner Lisa Jeanette Hashmi.

The country's first bereavement nurse assigned to a coroner's office started her new role this week.

The experienced specialist nurse will work from the coroner's office in Heywood, which covers cases from the boroughs of Rochdale, Oldham and Bury. She will offer support and assistance to all those who have been affected by a death referred to the coroner.

Milly Cooke, a Swan bereavement nurse from The Northern Care Alliance NHS Group, is the first coroner's office bereavement nurse in England.

Her role will initially run for 12 months as a pilot being funded by Rochdale, Oldham and Bury councils and the NHS's Northern Care Alliance.

The Northern Care Alliance assistant director of nursing, Fiona Murphy MBE, set up the Swan scheme which uses a swan symbol to represent end of life and bereavement care.

Milly's new role sits within the existing Swan bereavement service and is based at the coroner's office.

The North Manchester coroner's office dealt with 2709 deaths in 2017 and the Senior Coroner, Joanne Kearsley, hopes the service will benefit those who have contact with the service: "I am really proud that we have taken an innovative step by introducing Milly's role.

"We want to ensure that everyone impacted is properly supported throughout the process and I am sure Milly's presence will provide vital support for those affected by the coronial process." 

Milly's role will see her provide support to close family, friends and witnesses affected by deaths dealt with by the coroner.

The service will allow Milly to work with people in a way that suits their needs, which will include ongoing support through home visits and visits to the Swan bereavement suite at their local hospitals.

To aid families during the grieving process Milly will have access to resources to preserve memories with memory boxes, and can obtain locks of hair, hand and foot prints, or lip kisses at the request of families.  

Milly has 26 years of experience in nursing, including 14 years as a Macmillan nurse, and is proud to be in her new role.

She said: "Everyone, regardless of age, colour and religion, deserves to be cared for with compassion, dignity and respect at the end of their life and in death, as do the people who are left behind to grieve.

"Whether the death is expected or sudden, the moment we have to get it right becomes the memory that lives on for the bereaved. As part of the Swan bereavement team, our role as nurses is to be there for people who may need extra support in the early weeks and months of grief."

The Northern Care Alliance includes 2 NHS Trusts, Salford Royal and The Pennine Acute. The Alliance operates 5 hospitals which all have Swan bereavements suites; Rochdale Infirmary, Salford Royal, The Royal Oldham, Fairfield General in Bury, and North Manchester General.

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