BLOG: High-quality integrated care that benefits patients at the end of their lives

40th anniversary integrated care article header

High-quality integrated care that benefits patients at the end of their lives

On our 40th anniversary, we’ve been talking about the history of our charity from its beginnings at Syrena House in Plymstock, in 1982. Much has changed since the days when the specialism of hospice care was completely new to most of the UK, including Plymouth, and St Luke’s was limited to just seven beds for patients. 

Now, four decades on from the cramped conditions of Syrena House – the suburban property that was bought and converted thanks to huge community support so that our hospice could begin giving its specialist care to terminally ill people nearing the end of their lives – St Luke’s looks after up to 300 patients at any one time, supporting their families and carers, too.

Central to this is our integrated approach to patient care, which involves working closely with other health and social care providers, from GPs and district nurses to hospitals and care homes. This is what ensures people living with progressive life-limiting conditions, such as cancer, motor neurone disease and multiple sclerosis, are looked after compassionately and as seamlessly as possible whether they are at home, in hospital or at Turnchapel.

“Always pioneering, St Luke’s was the first hospice in the UK to adopt this more collaborative way of working, in 2005.”

Always pioneering, St Luke’s was the first hospice in the UK to adopt this more collaborative way of working, in 2005. Many other hospices up and down the country then learned from its example, following a similar approach for the benefit of people living and dying with terminal illness.

Innovative since its beginning, St Luke’s has evolved to meet the changing needs of our patients. This means our highly trusted service reaches far beyond the walls of the specialist inpatient unit, with our community team on the road 365 days a year across Plymouth and its surrounding areas so that, wherever possible, people who want to be looked after at home can realise their wish.

Chief Executive Steve Statham said: “For each and every one of our patients, we strive to give the very best personalised care in the place that is right for them. For many, this means staying in the familiar surroundings of home, as long as it is safe to do so. Wherever we look after them though, it is always with a focus on what matters most to them, helping them to be as at ease as possible.

“We are privileged and proud to do what we do, but it is only made possible thanks to the generous support our charity receives from the community around us. A huge thank you to everyone who embraces St Luke’s, from our volunteers, donors and fundraisers to the healthcare partners who collaborate with us to ensure our patients receive such well co-ordinated, compassionate care.”

When manager Matt Geoffrey needed St Luke’s care in his early 40s, our community team looked after him at home so that he could stay with his wife Sarah and their two young children.

Sarah said: “Matt was determined he did not want to die in hospital, and it was St Luke’s that helped make a plan so that he could be at home, including supplying a wheelchair and special bed.

“The team was with us the whole way through and made it possible for us to still be a family. Thanks to them, our kids were able to be kids, which was amazing, and Matt was able to live to the end in the way he wanted to.

“It’s really hard to sum up how I feel about everything they did for us, but they were like our family’s professional comfort blanket. I can’t thank them enough.”

Music fan and family man Jim Tozer was looked after by St Luke’s at home before sadly, he died in 2019.

His wife Jeanette said: “Being a nurse meant I was able to care for Jim at home, but when his condition deteriorated and he required specialist help, St Luke’s nurse Sonja was amazing. She was a reassuring presence for us all.”

Claire Behennah’s daughter Chloe was just 22 when she needed the care of St Luke’s team at Turnchapel in 2017.

Claire said: “My last journey with my beautiful daughter was in an ambulance from hospital to Turnchapel after we decided as a family it was where Chloe should be looked after when she became really poorly.

“Going there was absolutely the right decision. It doesn’t feel clinical at all and from the moment we arrived, everyone from the doctors to the porters treated us with the utmost respect.

“I’m forever grateful to St Luke’s for what they did for us. I remember Chloe telling me she felt like princess when she was able to use the bath with lights and music. To feel like a princess in a hospice really is special.”

At the end of his life, Tom Hammond, 30, from Tavistock was looked after by St Luke’s at home following several weeks at Turnchapel. This meant he could spend precious time with his wife Jess, their daughter Poppy and Josh, Tom’s son from a previous relationship.

Jess said: “St Luke’s came once a day and then more frequently as our needs changed. They did as much as they could to help, and it meant I got a little break from looking after Tom and could spend time one-on-one with Poppy. What they did for us gave us the most amazing three weeks together at home.”

When Tom’s condition worsened, it was St Luke’s End of Life Urgent Care team that stepped in, visiting four times a day.

Jess said: “They were so kind and so calm, and because of their training they were able to alert me when Tom was nearing his last hours.”