QEQM: How the bereavement suite offers solace to grieving relatives

East Kent Hospitals’ end-of-life clinical lead, Sue Cook (right) and Nicky Cerullo (left) end-of-life-care facilitator.

Experiencing the death of a relative or loved one in hospital is a profound experience that has a long-lasting impact on those who grieve.

And even though the vacuum left by a loved one dying can never be filled, or the emotions dismissed, the end-of-life care team at East Kent Hospitals do all they can to help relatives during a most painful time.

Writer Steve James spoke to the staff on the team about the bereavement suite at QEQM:

East Kent Hospitals’ end-of-life clinical lead, Sue Cook said: “Many people think that end-of-life care involves only the person who is dying. Naturally, that’s of pivotal importance, but we also have to apply care to the relatives too.

“Watching a loved one die can produce a myriad of emotions – some predictable, but others may be confusing and complex. This is perfectly natural and part of the grieving process. But if relatives and loved ones are experiencing these feelings, they need somewhere safe and secure where they can begin to process their grief.”

That central philosophy has, over the years, led to East Kent Hospitals developing a series of suites at the main hospital sites, including the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother (QEQM), Margate, where visitors and loved ones can access a secluded and comfortable space away from the wards.

‘Best kept secret’

“The suites aren’t brand new,” said Sue.  “The Beresford Suite at the QEQM, is more than eight years old but it’s probably our best kept secret.

“The bereavement suites are beautiful environments. We capture so many wonderful words from families who state the importance and value the suites bring at such a difficult time. It makes us realise that we’re looking after relatives and providing as much comfort and reassurance as we possibly can.”

Charitable funds, including money raised by the League of Friends, helped to support the establishment of the bereavement suites. And relatives who had gone through the bereavement process where integral to the design process.

Soothing seaside theme

Sue said: “In the QEQM, a seaside theme was chosen. Even the name ‘Beresford’ is named after Beresford Gap Bay, by the sea, in Westgate. In its design, we opted for a blue, green and silver and neutral palette – and even the crockery and cutlery were chosen to reflect the colours of the ocean.”

Water and its relaxing influence are reflected in the natural shapes of artwork, blinds and curved walls installed in the Beresford Suite.

Nothing in the suite has come together by accident, and there is great attention to detail, using high-quality materials, including the disabled-access en-suite shower facilities.

Sue said: “The design has also paid attention to an attractive view from the conservatory to the garden and families have given this much praise.”

A private place

One aspect of the Beresford Suite that is appreciated by families is its privacy and quiet – a place where a family can be together, away from the hustle and bustle of the hospital environment.

The private space of the suite, controlled by a keycard, enables loved ones to share their thoughts, feelings and memories in protective environment. There are no intrusive distractions or demands placed on those who use the Beresford Suite, which can accommodate two families, should the need arise.

“The emotional needs of the relatives and loved ones of those who are dying should never be forgotten,” said Sue. “By providing a safe, comforting and human environment, we can play a part in helping people during bereavement.”


East Kent Hospitals places great importance upon its end-of life care work, with continuous improvement being a key priority.

In its report of 2017, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) noted a ‘significant improvement’ in the end-of-life of pathways across East Kent Hospitals, and this something that East Kent Hospitals strives to maintain.