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T


he appalling attack on the Manchester Arena in May 2017 claimed 22 lives, many of them children, teenagers and young parents.


We interviewed Fiona Murphy MBE, the Associate Director of Nursing for End of Life at the Northern Care Alliance NHS Group to share how the bereavement team cared for those who lost their lives in Manchester and their families.


Fiona Murphy has been central in devising approaches to end of life and bereavement care for much of her thirty-year career and clearly understands how sudden and unexpected deaths are a massive shock to families. But as Fiona says, “In these tragic situations, we cannot take the hurt away, but we can show we care. Dying is everyone's business. Everyone that works in a health care setting and linked roles can contribute to a good dying journey.” It is this philosophy that Fiona puts into action every day and in 2017 in Manchester.


At 5.50am on Tuesday 23rd May 2017, the morning after the Manchester Arena attack, Fiona Murphy received a call from Professor Leeming, the Senior Coroner for Manchester


West, saying, “We don’t know how we need you, but we need you.”


At this point, there were nineteen confirmed deaths and the families of those still missing were at the Etihad Stadium.


The team at the Etihad included volunteers from the Red Cross, Police family liaison officers, the Coroner’s Office and security. By lunchtime, the death toll had reached 22. Fiona says, “Collaboratively, between the police, the coroner and nursing teams, we made the decision that whatever we found out, the families would be told.” This was a new approach: in previous major incidents, victims’ families were not informed unless identification was 100% confirmed. “We made the decision to say, on what you've told us, we are 99% sure this is your relative. We will do our absolute best for you to be with them as soon as possible.” Fiona explained that an hour to a newly bereaved family without visual confirmation of death is a long time. “All our families had been informed by 6pm on 23rd May.”


The bereaved families were accommodated in one hotel with a bereavement nurse in support: “Our bereavement nurses never left their side for the first 72 hours.”


The next step was to plan the mortuary visits. Fiona and Professor Leeming selected a mortuary that could provide a high level of


service for the difficult task of the visits of the families. The team did their best to find out details about each of the individuals who had died: from their favourite colour, how they had their hair, what shampoo they used and their favourite music. The mortuary visits started on Wednesday evening. Explaining their approach to these, Fiona says, “We did something that will change my life forever.”


Historically, in major incidents, families can


STRENGTH IN DIVERSITY.


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18 © CI TY S ECUR I TY MAGAZ INE – AUTUMN 2 0 1 9


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