BLOG: Enhancing end of life care for armed forces men and women

We are dedicated to looking after terminally ill people of all backgrounds, so we are piloting a scheme to enhance its end of life care for patients who have given service to their country in the armed forces.

The End of Life Military Compassion project recently launched by St Luke’s will help ensure the community is a kinder place for both current military personnel and veterans whose time is running short, and for their families, too.

With grant funding from the Armed Forces Covenant, the initiative has evolved from our collaboration with Plymouth City Council and other local organisations which established Plymouth as England’s first Compassionate City for people at end of life and those who care for them.

Recognising that patients from military backgrounds tend to feel better understood, and more at ease, when the care and support they receive acknowledges the service they have given their country, and the language and routines with which they are familiar, we are dedicating some of our own resources to help better identify those patients who would benefit.

Understanding, too, that receiving a terminal diagnosis can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, we are using the grant to recruit volunteers from military backgrounds, providing them with bespoke training so that they are equipped to give befriending support to terminally ill current and former servicemen and women and their families.

Many of St Luke’s own highly skilled staff come from military families or have themselves served in the armed forces. As well as harnessing their knowledge and experience to develop the pilot project, we have drawn on the expertise of charities dedicated to supporting current and former forces personnel, including the Plymouth Veterans and Families Hub, the Royal British Legion, SSAFA and Help for Heroes, all of whom welcome the initiative.

George Lillie, Director of Clinical Services and Deputy Chief Executive of St Luke’s, said: “We work with our community, in partnership with others, to achieve dignity, comfort and choice for people affected by life-limiting illnesses. The service we provide is about so much more than hands-on medical care – it is about getting to know our patients so that we can focus on what matters most to them, helping them make the most of their time with loved ones.

“We know that people respond best when they feel listened to and understood, and we are committed to doing all that we can to ensure this. The Armed Forces Covenant grant will help us meet the specific needs of terminally ill military staff and veterans, and their families. We will also share our learning with other organisations throughout the communities we serve across Plymouth and surrounding areas so that these patients feel better supported by all in the last months, weeks and days of their lives.”

Plymouth’s Mark Ormrod, the former Royal Marine Commando who sustained life-changing injuries while serving in Afghanistan and is now an internationally acclaimed motivational speaker, performance coach and award-winning author, is a patron of St Luke’s.

Championing the End of Life Military Compassion project, Mark said: “I have such respect for the team at St Luke’s, who always give their care with such kindness and sensitivity. Knowing that they are going the extra mile for forces families by developing their service in a way that is bespoke for them is fantastic. Not only will this help ensure terminally ill military men and women feel recognised for their service and die with dignity, but that their loved ones are better supported, too.”

For further information, please contact us on 01752 964250 or email education@stlukes-hospice.org.uk.