four purple butterfly shaped icons

Purple Butterfly Volunteer

Purpose and summary of duties

The Purple Butterfly Volunteers are a group of specially trained people, with a variety of skills, who support both patients and their families and friends at a difficult time. They offer one-to-one support, compassionate listening, comfort and companionship particularly for those with few or no visitors.

Each visit is unique. The volunteers will work with the patient and visitors present to determine any needs at that particular time.

The volunteers can help by reading aloud or by making a cup of tea and sitting down to chat. Sometimes, silent company or just holding a person’s hand is what is needed. The volunteers can liaise with the ward staff if they feel that the patient has additional needs.

On occasions, the volunteers are called upon to support visitors who do not want to leave their loved ones alone. The volunteer will offer respite, so that they can take a short break from the bedside.

Commitment level

4 hours, weekly or fortnightly for a minimum of 6 months

Shifts available between Monday to Friday, 90.00am-1.00pm or 1.00pm-5.00pm

Skills, experience, attitudes, and qualities needed


•    Excellent listening skills and a non-judgmental attitude
•    Compassionate 
•    A friendly and open manner
•    To feel comfortable in an acute hospital environment
•    To adhere to the Trust values of treating others with respect and dignity at all times
•    Understand the importance to stay within the boundaries of the role description


•    Previous experience supporting patients receiving end of life care 
•    Experience working with people with cognitive impairments or dementia
•    Experience working with people with autism or a learning disability 

Training and information provided

•    Volunteer mandatory training programme (please find further information on our FAQs page)
•    Department orientation and induction
•    Specialist training if required, such as Dementia Level 2 or mealtime companion training
•    Shadowing induction sessions with an existing volunteer or staff member demonstrating the role.
•    Ongoing supervision and support 
•    Ongoing updates and information

Challenges of the position

•    The emotional and spiritual consequences of being with people at the end of life
•    Coming into hospital can be an anxious time for patients and their relatives. Sometimes this may make people less tolerant than they might usually be and they may come across as impolite. It is important that the volunteer remains calm and listens politely and seeks staff support immediately if required.
•    Potentially supporting patients with cognitive impairments or dementia (around 25% of inpatients at NBT have dementia), additional training and support will be provided. 

Boundaries of the position

Volunteering within the NHS has clear boundaries to ensure that we are keeping our patients and volunteers safe. Please download the detailed role description below for further details. 

Reimbursement of expenses

•    Travel expenses to and from the hospital can be reimbursed
•    Meal vouchers for use in the staff Vu restaurant are offered if volunteering for over 4 consecutive hours in one day

Benefits of volunteering

•    Gain practical volunteer experience and learn about the healthcare environment 
•    Develop skills and experience that may be transferable to paid employment, such as working as a part of a team
•    Opportunity to help/support patients during a difficult time
•    References can be provided on completion of three months volunteering, if required
•    Ongoing support and supervision sessions
•    Making friends with other volunteers and meeting new people
•    Awards in recognition of volunteering contribution
•    Light refreshments when on duty
•    Free parking

Recruitment information

You will be asked to provide two independent references from people who have known you for more than three years (this cannot be a family member).

You will also need to have a standard Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check for this role, which will be paid for by the Trust.

How to apply

If you would like to apply for this volunteer opportunity, please download the application form below and return it via email or post to:


Postal Address: Volunteer Services, North Bristol NHS Trust, Brunel building, Level 1, Gate 18, Southmead Hospital, Bristol, BS10 5NB

If you have any questions or would like this information in a different format, please get in touch with us on: 0117 414 0110