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The Big Conversation Event on Bereavement

Today (Wednesday 20th March 2024), we held The Big Conversation event around Bereavement at the Christchurch Centre in Newport, where we were joined by patients, carers, staff, partners and our wider communities to discuss how we can improve bereavement services in Gwent.

The event was a great opportunity to have open discussions with each other and our local communities around death and bereavement, so that we can learn about what would make a difference to the end-of-life and bereavement care we provide.

The day began with opening remarks from our Executive Director of Nursing, Jenny Winslade, who highlighted how her background in health visiting means she is particularly passionate around ‘getting it right’ for our communities in the first 1000 days of life, and the last 1000 days of life. Jenny then discussed our ambition to work together to improve end-of-life care and to listen to patients' loved ones to learn about how we can make a difference to them.

The Health Board's Chief Executive, Nicola Prygodzicz, then provided an opening address, where she noted our Population Health responsibility to make sure we are covering the whole end-of-life population, making sure everyone in the area has equitable access to high quality end-of-life care in the area. Nicola acknowledged that we can’t correct mistakes but we can learn from them to ensure that they don't happen again.

The event then heard from a number of specialist speakers around different aspects of end-of-life and bereavement care:

  • Marie Curie Research Fellow, Dr Emily Harrop, presented the new national framework in Wales for the delivery of bereavement care and the research that informed it.
  • Dr Clifford Jones, Assistant Medical Director at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, talked about advanced care planning, the importance of planning well for death and making your wishes known.
  • Rhian Mannings MBE, CEO of 2 Wish, discussed her own personal experiences of loss and what drove her to found her charity that provides bereavement support for individuals, families and professionals affected by the sudden and traumatic death of a child.
  • Chris Dunn, CEO of Diverse Cymru, talked about the ‘Hard to Reach’ Myth and how nobody in Wales is hard to reach. He highlighted how being inclusive with language and representation should allow us to reach anyone of any community in Wales.
  • Bethan Bowden, Consultant in Public Health, presented the current bereavement support available for people affected by a death by suicide.
  • Non Ellis, Equality and Inclusion Specialist at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board discussed the bereavement support required for people with sensory loss and shared some impactful case studies from those with sensory loss who have experienced bereavement.

  • Health Board Chaplain, Alan Tyler, and Farid Khan, Imam, provided a presentation on religion, spirituality and the pastoral aspect of end-of-life care and support after loss, talking about the importance of considering the specific requirements that some religions require after death, as well as how religion and faith can play a part in supporting people at a time of grief and bereavement.

  • Dr Jason Shannon, Lead Medical Examiner for Wales, discussed the impact of the new death certification reforms.

  • Tanya Strange, Head of Nursing, Patient Experience and Involvement, and Louise Jones, Bereavement Lead Nurse, talked through the Health Board's vision and ambitions for improved local bereavement services.


Throughout the afternoon, round table conversations then took place to discuss preparing for loss, and tailored bereavement support. Some discussion topics included:

  • People with sensory loss and disabilities
  • People from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities
  • People who have lost a child or young person
  • People who have lost someone under traumatic circumstances (including suicide)

To close the afternoon, feedback from all discussion groups was then presented to ensure all views were fed into the Big Conversation, before closing remarks from John Moss, National Bereavement Framework Programme Manager for the NHS Wales Executive. Attendees were also each provided with a paper heart to write a message to a lost loved one and hang it on one of the Trees of Hope, which will also feed into the Health Board's new bereavement model.


Thank you to all of our staff, partners, patients and communities who attended this very important event today, and for their valuable contribution to the Big Conversation.