As the Kingsbridge article in last month’s Hospice Herald highlighted, in addition to covering busy urban areas such as central Plymouth, St Luke’s care reaches out across rural areas, including the picturesque South Hams.

While picture-postcard pretty, these more isolated places can leave those residents approaching end of life struggling to access the health and social care they need and short on choice when it comes to their preferred place of receiving the specialist help that’s vital at such a difficult time.

Most people with a life limiting progressive illness want to be looked after in the comfort of their own home, close to loved ones. Cathryn Goodchild is a nurse in St Luke’s at home team for the South Hams and covers Modbury through to Chillington, including Kingsbridge, Salcombe and part of South Brent.

Cathryn said: “I’m very much part of team working alongside our physiotherapists and occupational therapists, and my role includes helping to identify patients’ problems, providing symptom control and working with patients and their families to consider options for future care.

“One of the problems is that due to the rural location we can’t automatically access carers through agencies and know that they can visit three or four times a day to meet the needs of our patients and support their carers and families. We’ve had to find alternatives to the ‘traditional’ package of care.”

This challenge has called for a creative and practical approach from St Luke’s to help ensure people in rural areas benefit from high-quality compassionate care in their preferred place. This can include help with washing and dressing, and sometimes overnight care, too. The key is our flourishing partnership with South Hams Hospital, district nurses and local GP surgeries.

Yvonne Bastin, Livewell Southwest Community Sister at South Hams Hospital, said: “Our rural location does present difficulties, and in the summer when there’s a big influx of visitors it impacts on our roads, so it takes much longer to reach patients. The heavy snow earlier this year was also a significant challenge for us.

“But Cathryn and the team are amazing. And it’s not just their practical support – Cathryn gives us advice on medication and getting care. We work well together on completing forms and she’s always there to help, speaking with our doctors, too. If she doesn’t know something, she’ll always find someone who does, whether that’s a St Luke’s doctor or another member of their team.

“Our patients want to be at home, and they know it’s the last place they’ll be. They want to be with their family, and if we can get them the support they need there – well, that’s the whole purpose of our care.”