The most pressing personal, social and public health issue?

The most pressing personal, social and public health issue?

On Thursday 22nd September we welcomed over 140 delegates to our conference on Why End of Life Companionship Matters.

A conference to consider Why End of Life Companionship Matters

In late September 2022 we welcomed over 140 delegates – in person and online – to our conference on Why End of Life Companionship Matters.

In a packed programme we explored the experiences and connections of hospitals, hospices, community, online and faith groups.

Delegates joined in person and online to hear presentations

The morning opened with a presentation from the St Vincent de Paul Society describing the successes and challenges of our ongoing joint end-of-life companion training programme.

We also heard from researcher John Downey, who explained how this important work is being evaluated, and what we are learning from the process.

One of the most pressing issues of our time?

Professor John Ellershaw, Head of the Palliative Care Unit, at the University of Liverpool joined us to highlight the value of volunteering in end of life care. He described the issue of how we care for the dying as:

“perhaps the most pressing personal, social and public health issue of the 21st century”.

Our next speaker was Anita Hayes of Hospice UK who spoke eloquently about how hospices are at the heart of our communities, and the importance of community volunteer programmes, which include a huge number of ways to get involved, including everything from gardening, driving and even hairdressing.

Development of grief support

Lizzie Wrobel, Head of Digital at Sue Ryder gave us an overview of their developing online bereavement support (Grief Guide), describing how “shared experience is key”.

Best-selling author and former palliative care professional, Dr Kathryn Mannix joined us to describe the art of listening, which is so incredibly important for those tender conversations at the end of life, closing her presentation with a question for all of us:

“What two things will you do differently in your important conversations to see what happens?”

After lunch Baroness Ilora Findlay, professor of palliative medicine, and a Crossbench member of the House of Lords, addressed the conference before attendees broke into groups to attend workshops.

Bringing the day to a close with a poem

The day closed with a reading by Margaret Doherty, Director of the Centre for the Art of Dying Well of a poem written by Audrey Ardern Jones.

To be there

(for the dying & those caring for the dying)


Last days, last seconds, minutes of a life – ,

hands in hands –- whispers in prayer, in song:

time to be, to feel the tenderness of tears:

to share the diminishing silence of last breaths;

a new stillness amidst the noises of the world:

and these moments are sacred, memorable,

like sunlight splintering an early morning sky,

acres of whiteness fringed with gold angel wings.


For all of us night comes in shades of darkness

some of us long to stay, some of us long to leave,

all of us are part of each other in love & hope

and in this togetherness there’s warmth, calm

and peace – the sea a blue-green wash, a pink

summer moon soothed by galaxies of stars.

The Art of Dying Well